Alexey Navalny timeline: From poisoning to prison

The Kremlin’s most prominent critic has returned to Russia, five months after collapsing on a plane.

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny is escorted by police officers after a court hearing, in Khimki outside Moscow, Russia, January 18, 2021 [Evgeny Feldman/Meduza/Handout via Reuters]

Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny was taken into custody in Russia on Monday for 30 days pending further court hearings.

He was arrested the night before at a Moscow airport, having returned after spending several months in Germany recovering from an alleged poisoning attack, which he blames on Russian authorities.

Western powers have called on Russia to release Navalny, who is accused by authorities of breaking the terms of a 2014 suspended sentence. Navalny says the embezzlement charges relating to that case were politically motivated.

Here are some of the key events in his saga to date:

August 20, 2020 – Navalny is hospitalised in the Siberian city of Omsk after falling ill and losing consciousness while on a flight over Siberia. Navalny’s spokeswoman says he was poisoned, perhaps by a cup of tea he drank prior to the takeoff from Tomsk’s Bogashevo airport, but Russian doctors treating him say they have found “no trace” in his blood or urine.

August 22, 2020 – Navalny is airlifted to Charite hospital in Germany’s capital, Berlin, for treatment. The Russian medical team treating him had initially refused the move before later releasing him. German doctors say their tests indicate Navalny was poisoned.

September 2, 2020 – German officials say there is “unequivocal proof” Navalny was poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent, a Soviet-era chemical weapon. Chancellor Angela Merkel says Navalny is a victim of attempted murder, adding there are “serious questions that only the Russian government can and must answer”. International calls for an investigation into the incident mount.

September 3, 2020 – The Kremlin rejects claims, including those made by Navalny’s team, that Moscow was behind the poisoning.

September 4, 2020 – A Russian toxicologist says Navalny’s health could have deteriorated because of dieting, stress or fatigue, insisting no poison had been found in his body.

September 7, 2020 – German doctors say Navalny is out of an artificial coma.

September 11-13 – Russia holds local elections during which Navalny’s allies make gains in Siberian cities.

September 14, 2020 – Laboratories in France and Sweden confirm Germany’s findings that Navalny was poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent. French President Emmanuel Macron urges Putin to shed light on the “attempted murder”, but the Russian leader only moves to condemn “unsubstantiated” accusations.

September 15, 2020 – Navalny posts a message on Instagram saying he is able to breathe unaided, appearing with his wife Yulia and two children, sitting up in bed looking gaunt.

September 17, 2020 – Navalny’s aides say they have discovered traces of Novichok on a bottle taken from the hotel in Siberia where he stayed before falling ill.

September 21, 2020 – Navalny says Western laboratories have found traces of Novichok in and on his body and he demands Moscow return his clothes from the day he fell ill.

September 22, 2020 – Navalny is discharged from hospital and doctors say a “complete recovery is possible”. The Kremlin says Navalny is welcome to return to Moscow, while his spokeswoman says Russia froze his assets while he was in a coma.

October 1, 2020 – Navalny accuses Putin of being behind his poisoning, and says he will not give the Russian president the pleasure of being in exile. Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov accuses Navalny of working for the CIA and calls his claims “groundless and unacceptable”.

December 14, 2020 – Citing flight records and mobile phone geolocation data, investigative website Bellingcat and Russian media outlet The Insider publish results of a joint investigation into Navalny’s alleged poisoning. In cooperation with Der Spiegel and CNN, and endorsed by Navalny, they claim to have identified a team of assassins from Russia’s FSB security service who have stalked him for years. It names intelligence officers and poison laboratories it says were behind the operation.

December 21, 2020 – Navalny releases a recording of him appearing to trick an FSB agent into confessing that he tried to kill him by putting poison in his underpants. The FSB denounces the video clip of the phone call as “fake”.

December 28, 2020 – Russia’s prison service gives Navalny a last-minute ultimatum, telling him to fly back from Germany at once and report at a Moscow office the following morning. The prison service warns Navalny he will be jailed if he returns after the deadline. Navalny’s spokeswoman says it is impossible for him to return in time, adding that he is still convalescing after his poisoning, and accuses the prison service of acting on orders from the Kremlin.

January 12, 2021 – Court documents reveal a Russian judge has been asked to jail Navalny in absentia for, among other infractions, having allegedly broken the terms of a suspended sentence he had been serving.

January 13, 2021 – Navalny posts a video on Instagram announcing plans to return home to Russia. “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 says.

January 17, 2021 – Navalny flies home to Russia from Germany. He is detained shortly after landing at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport. The arrest provokes condemnation from several European and world powers and a chorus of calls for his immediate release.

January 18, 2021 – A Russian judge remands Navalny in pre-trial detention for 30 days for violating the terms of his suspended jail sentence at a hastily arranged court hearing in a police station on the outskirts of Moscow. Navalny urges Russians to take to the streets in protest in the wake of the decision. “Don’t be afraid, take to the streets. Don’t go out for me, go out for yourself and your future,” he said in a video published on social media.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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