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Alexey Nalavny lands back in Moscow despite threat of arrest

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny returned to Moscow on Sunday, five months after being poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok and despite being warned that he faced arrest upon his return.

Driving the news: Vnukovo airport — where Navalny was scheduled to land and a group of supporters had gathered — was closed to arriving aircraft shortly before his flight was set to land. He landed instead at Sheremetyevo airport. It's not yet clear whether he'll be allowed to leave the airport.


Flashback: In August, Navalny collapsed on a flight to Moscow from the Siberian city of Tomsk, and was taken to a local hospital before being allowed to travel on to Germany for treatment.

  • German authorities said he'd been poisoned with Novichok, which is developed exclusively by the Russian military. One of the Russian agents involved in the operation was later duped into revealing how the botched operation was carried out — on a call with Navalny himself.
  • The Kremlin has denied any role in the poisoning, but did warn that Navalny would face arrest upon his return to Russia — officially for violating the terms of a suspended prison term he received in 2014.

On the scene: A large police presence awaited Navalny at Vnukovo airport, and several of his aides and supporters were arrested prior to his arrival.

  • The airport was reportedly cleared of all non-passengers, with riot police also on hand.
  • Those steps, in addition to the last-minute change in the arrival airport, undercut the Kremlin narrative that Navalny is a figure of little concern.

The backstory: Navalny made his name as a video blogger and anti-corruption activist. He has organized some of the largest protests against Putin, who refuses to refer to him by name.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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