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Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny called on his supporters to protest after he was arrested at a Moscow airport Sunday.
"Don't be afraid. Take to the streets. Don't do it for me, do it for yourselves and your future," Navalny said in a video posted to YouTube, the social media platform that has brought his anti-Kremlin message to the farthest corners of Russia. Navalny's supporters say they will organize nationwide protests on Jan. 23.
A judge ruled to remand Navalny in custody for 30 days following his return from Germany, where he was recovering from an August poisoning that he blames on Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russian authorities had warned that Navalny would be arrested for violating the parole terms of a 2014 conviction in an embezzlement case, even though the European Court of Human Rights later ruled Russia had denied Navalny a fair trial.
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been remanded in custody for 30 days by a judge after a court hearing at a police precinct, according to his spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh.
The Kremlin critic had been held at the police precinct outside Moscow after his return to Russia from Germany on Sunday, five months after his poisoning with the nerve agent Novichok.
He arrived with his wife Yulia Navalnaya at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport on Sunday evening local time and was immediately detained at passport control.
Navalny traveled from Berlin to Moscow after recovering in Germany from his poisoning in August. Confusion surrounded his arrival in Russia -- his plane was originally scheduled to land at Moscow's Vnukovo Airport, where supporters and media were waiting.
Alexei Navalny, the leading critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was just arrested on his return to Moscow — five months after almost dying from what was alleged to be a government-directed poison attack.
Navalny fell ill at a Siberian airport before boarding a flight to Moscow last August. His team didn’t believe Russian hospitals were giving him proper care or doing enough to figure out what happened to him, so with the help of a Berlin-based humanitarian group, they moved Navalny to Germany to recover. A top chemical weapons watchdog confirmed last October that Navalny was poisoned with novichok, a deadly nerve agent the Russian government has been known to use on political dissidents.
Navalny remained in Germany for months, working with journalists to uncover what happened to him while always vowing to return to Russia. A report from CNN and Bellingcat clearly implicates the Russian government for almost killing Navalny, and would seem to implicate Putin in the poisoning, given such an operation would almost certainly require Putin’s approval. And in YouTube videos viewed over 40 million times, Navalny directly accused the Kremlin of trying to kill him.
Moscow’s top diplomat has told reporters that the arrest of opposition figure Alexey Navalny was inevitable under Russian law, but is being used by foreign governments to try to score political points against the country.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov used a press conference on Monday to address reactions from foreign governments to the news that Navalny had been taken into custody after flying back to Moscow over the weekend.
“We are already seeing how the news of Navalny’s return to Russia is being covered, you can feel the joy in their comments, which read like they’ve been copied and pasted,” Lavrov said. “They are joyful because they seem to think it allows Western politicians to distract attention from the deepest crisis that their liberal model has ever seen.”
Asked whether Navalny's arrest would affect relations with foreign governments, Lavrov said that "maybe it's true that you have to think about your image, but we're aren't young ladies getting ready to go to a ball. We have to do our work first [and] our work is to implement Russian foreign policy."