Moscow – Russian police yesterday detained four top allies of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny at a Moscow airport where they were to meet him on his return from Germany, a senior associate said.
Ivan Zhdanov, the head of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, said on Twitter that key ally Lyubov Sobol was among the four detained. Footage shot by local journalists showed police leading her and the others away.
Sobol, 33, rose to prominence in the summer of 2019 when she and other opposition politicians were barred from running for local council elections in Moscow. She has announced plans to ballot in this year’s parliamentary vote.
Navalny’s allies were at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport along with supporters of the 44-year-old opposition figure awaiting his arrival from Berlin, where he has spent months recovering from a poisoning attack.
AFP journalists said there was a heavy police presence at the airport, after authorities warned that mass events would not be allowed because of Covid restrictions.
Navalny’s flight took off from Berlin just after 1415 GMT and is expected to land in Moscow around 7:30 pm (1630 GMT).
The opposition MBKh Media outlet reported that at least 10 people had been detained at the airport, including a journalist.
Zhdanov said that those detained included Navalny associates Ruslan Shaveddinov and Anastasia Kadetova, who manages the opposition figure’s regional headquarters.
Also detained, Zhdanov said, was Ilya Pakhomov, who was with Navalny when he fell violently ill on a flight from Siberia to Moscow in August.
The Kremlin critic was later transferred by medical aircraft to Berlin and Western experts concluded he was poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok.
Navalny has blamed Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) for the attack, which he said was carried out on President Vladimir Putin’s orders.
The Kremlin has repeatedly denied any involvement in the poisoning and Russian investigators have not opened a probe into the attack.
Russia’s prison service FSIN says Navalny may face jail time on arrival in Moscow for violating the terms of a 2014 suspended sentence he was handed on fraud charges. — AFP