Russia’s most prominent opposition activist took to Instagram to tell his 2.5 million followers he had purchased an airline ticket back to Russia, five months after surviving an assassination attempt.
The outspoken critic of the Kremlin was on a return flight from Tomsk to Moscow when he became violently ill forcing the plane to make an emergency landing in Omsk. From there, Navalny was treated at a local hospital before eventually being airlifted to Germany where tests confirmed he had been poisoned with Novichok, a highly toxic nerve agent.
At first, it was reported the nerve agent was planted in a cup of tea Navalny drank at Tomsk airport before his flight. However, a phone recording published by Navalny told otherwise. Posing as an aide to the secretary of Russia’s security council, Navalny spoke to a Russian state security operative who revealed the nerve agent was planted in opposition leader’s underwear.
The Kremlin admitted Navalny had been trailed by the KGB, but strongly denied claims that Russia had any involvement in the assassination attempt, suggesting the recording was fake and that Navalny was free to return to Russia at any time.
Navalny is expected to return to Moscow on Sunday but will await immediate arrest after the Moscow branch of Russia’s Federal Prison Service (FSIN) issued a statement describing their obligation ‘to take all actions to detain’ Navalny for allegedly breaching the terms of a suspended sentence.
Navalny was arrested in late 2014, alongside his brother Oleg, on fraud and embezzlement charges. Both brothers received a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence and while Oleg was forced to serve his time, Navalny’s was suspended.
However, a pending court decision may see the suspended sentence overturned after the FSIN claim Navalny has repeatedly breached his probation conditions.
Navalny denies any wrongdoing citing a politically motivated attempt to deter him from returning to Russia ahead of the upcoming September elections where support for Putin’s party is currently at a record low.