Leading critic of President Vladimir Putin accuses the Kremlin of trying to scare him into not returning to Russia.
Kremlin foe Alexey Navalny on Wednesday said he would fly home to Russia from Germany over the weekend, shrugging off potential legal risks that could see him jailed.
Navalny, one of President Vladimir Putin’s leading critics, collapsed on a plane in August in what Western nations say was an attempt to murder him with a Novichok nerve agent.
He has since been recovering in Germany, where he was airlifted to after falling ill on the plane.
Navalny has accused Russian authorities of trying to kill him, but they deny any involvement in the incident and have pressed a court to jail Navalny in absentia for allegedly breaking the terms of a suspended sentence handed down in 2014.
Announcing his plan to return on Sunday, Navalny accused Putin of trying to deter him from coming home with new legal motions.
“It was never a question of whether to return or not. Simply because I never left. I ended up in Germany after arriving in an intensive care unit for one reason: they tried to kill me,” he wrote on Instagram, adding that he had probably almost fully recovered his health.
“[Putin’s] servants are acting as usual by fabricating new criminal cases against me. But I’m not interested in what they’re going to do to me. Russia is my country, Moscow is my city and I miss it.”
Navalny’s announcement came a day after court documents showed Russian authorities had requested that his suspended sentence be cancelled, raising the prospect of a custodial sentence instead.
At the end of December, Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service demanded that Navalny report to its office in line with the terms of the 2014 sentence on charges of embezzlement and money laundering. The service warned that he faced prison time if he failed to appear.
Navalny says his suspended sentence, which he describes as being politically motivated, ended on December 30. He also noted the European Court for Human Rights had ruled that his 2014 conviction was unlawful.
He and his allies have accused Russian authorities of trying to scare him from returning ahead of parliamentary elections due to be held in September.
The Kremlin has said Navalny is free to return to Russia at any time like any other Russian citizen.