His incarceration drew condemnation from the EU and the United States, which demanded his release. Appeals rejected by Russia.
Charismatic anti-corruption activist and sworn enemy of the Kremlin, Navalny, 44, accuses President Vladimir Putin of ordering his Novichok poisonous assassination in August, which Russia denies. On Sunday, the opponent returned to the Russian capital, after five months of convalescence in Germany. He was arrested upon his arrival, the FSIN, the Russian penitentiary service, accusing him of having violated measures of judicial control by going to seek treatment abroad. During the night he was transferred from Sheremetyevo airport to the Khimki police station, a suburb of Moscow, but so far he has not been able to see his lawyers.
Supporters of Russian opponent Alexeï Navalny said Monday that his arrest the day before on his arrival in Moscow, after a long recovery in Germany, was “illegal” and that the police denied him access to his lawyers. “He is illegally detained, we do not let his lawyers see him”, denounced the Fund for the fight against corruption, the organization of the opponent.
According to his spokesperson Kira Iarmych, two counsel for the opponent were allowed to enter the Khimki police station building, on the outskirts of Moscow, where he was being held. “But we don’t let them see Alexeï,” she said on Twitter.
One of the lawyers, Olga Mikhaïlova, told the Ekho radio station in Moscow that the police “are breaking the law by preventing the defense” of Mr. Navalny from meeting him.
“Prisoner of conscience”
By flying to Moscow, Alexeï Navalny said he was “very happy” to return and assured that he was not afraid of anything. “They are going to arrest me? It is not possible, I am innocent”, he had ironed. The NGO Amnesty International estimated that Alexeï Navalny was now a “prisoner of conscience” victim of a “relentless campaign” by the Russian authorities. The President of the European Council Charles Michel, France, Germany and even Poland have called for an “immediate” release, as has the future administration of American President-elect Joe Biden. The head of the American diplomacy Mike Pompeo denounced an attempt to “silence Navalny”. Russian diplomacy spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told them via Facebook to “meddle in their own problems”.
Alexei Navalny had suddenly fallen into a coma in August, while returning from an election tour in Siberia. First hospitalized in Omsk, he was finally evacuated to a Berlin hospital under pressure from his relatives. Three European laboratories have since concluded that the opponent was poisoned by a Novichok-type nerve agent, developed in Soviet times for military purposes, a finding confirmed by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
Russia has multiplied the versions: illness, poor lifestyle, provocation of Western secret services … It therefore refuses to open a criminal investigation.
Widely ignored by Russian national media, Alexei Navalny remains the main voice of the opposition thanks to a very large audience on social networks (his YouTube channel has 4.8 million subscribers) and his investigations into the corruption of elites and the entourage of Mr. Poutine. Its notoriety, however, remains limited outside the large urban areas. According to a September poll by the independent Levada center, only 20% of Russians approve of his action.