Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny arrested on return to Russia after nerve agent poisoning – BBC News
The Russian authorities detained the opposition politician who returned to his homeland
At Vnukovo airport on Sunday, there were arrests of supporters of Alexei Navalny, who arrived to meet the opposition politician who had returned to Russia from Germany. These are employees of the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) Lyubov Sobol and Ruslan Shaveddinov, as well as Anastasia Kadetova, Ilya Pakhomov, Dmitry Beskorovainy, Konstantin Kotov, who recently served a prison sentence in a falsified case, and a correspondent «Novaya Gazeta» Vlad Dokshin. The list of those detained by them is far from being exhausted..
The actions of the Russian authorities in preparation for the return of Alexei Navalny resembled a large-scale special operation. Preventive measures were taken against Navalny’s supporters in different cities of the country – from attempts to serve prosecutorial notices to removal from trains and flights and subsequent detention by the police.
According to OVD-Info, at least 8 activists were not allowed to leave St. Petersburg for Moscow to meet with the politician. Thus, a correspondent was detained at the Pulkovo airport at the registration desk. «Media zones» David Frenkel and took him in a paddy wagon to the police station.
The media also reported that it was possible to get inside Vnukovo airport only with a ticket in hand. Even on the eve of such a rigid attitude was not. As a result, for «board» airport were also those who came to meet their relatives and friends. Meanwhile, the temperature in the yard is reportedly 25-26 degrees below zero..
In addition, as reported by the media, paddy wagons were recorded in Vnukovo..
On the eve of the airport management announced a ban on journalists to take photos and videos indoors, citing the danger of the spread of coronavirus infection. Nevertheless, the Sota Vision editors decided to broadcast from Vnukovo.
Many media outlets began to conduct online programs ahead of time dedicated to the return of Navalny and what accompanied him..
This was done, in particular, by the editorial board of the radio station. «silver Rain». According to her correspondent, who was in Vnukovo, some journalists still managed to get into the building, for which they bought tickets for flights to where they were not going to fly at all. The correspondent noted that many young people arrived at the airport, some – with bouquets of flowers.
According to the journalist, only RT was allowed to shoot Navalny’s meeting.
It was also reported that Oleg Navalny came to meet his brother at Vnukovo, who also had to buy a ticket.
Vyacheslav Bakhmin: «The authorities are terribly afraid of unpredictability»
Vyacheslav Bakhmin, co-chairman of the Moscow Helsinki Group, founder of the Sakharov Center, believes that the authorities are in panic. In his opinion, they do not know what to do, so they use the usual measures..
«“Range” former: punish, restrict, do not let, – added Bakhmin in an interview with the Russian service «Voices of America». – Because if one of Navalny’s supporters suddenly breaks through the cordons, this, in their view, may lead to incomprehensible results. They are terribly afraid of unpredictability. Therefore, they want to do everything according to their own scenario as much as possible, and Navalny breaks their scenarios, and they have to adjust to it all the time.».
Thus, the authorities drive themselves into a dead end and put themselves in a stupid position, the human rights activist claims: «This is the panic of people who are used to dictating their will to others. Here you have to react somehow differently, but they do not know how. Well, they hate to act within the framework of the law. Law – it’s them. What they do is legal, and what is done against them is always illegal.».
Willy-nilly, the authorities confirm the importance of the figure of Navalny – despite the fact that Russian leaders of all stripes still do not call him by name, stated Vyacheslav Bakhmin.
«Because such a scale of reaction to the behavior of one person, in general, has never happened and I do not know when it will be. They really carved themselves. They simply don’t have good moves. In chess, this is called zugzwang, when the next move will be worse than the previous one», – thinks the co-chairman of the MHG.
«We do not yet know how long Navalny was detained and whether an arrest will follow., – continues Bakhmin. – Most likely, a court will be held in the next two days, which will decide on a measure of restraint against the oppositionist. Much will depend on this. Because it is clear that Navalny’s supporters will react to the verdict».
From what happened in Vnukovo and Sheremetyevo, it is clear that the very fact of the politician’s return to his homeland became a mobilizing factor for his supporters, the human rights activist notes: «The authorities are completely confused and do not seem to know what they are doing. Their reaction looks surprisingly stupid. Why, pray tell, several dozen people were detained in Vnukovo, if it is clear that the plane with the politician will land elsewhere?» Well, at least they would leave people alone».
According to Bakhmin, each of the law enforcement agencies behaves regardless of what the others do: «This general inconsistency shows the weakness of the government, and the fact that there is no center that makes a single decision. Either this center is in hysterics, not understanding what to do in this situation».
The co-chairman of the Moscow Helsinki Group found it difficult to predict how events will develop further. It all depends on how the authorities deal with Navalny – will they jail him or still apply other measures of restraint to him, he summed up.
Professor of the European University at St. Petersburg, political scientist Dmitry Travin in an interview with the correspondent of the Russian Service «Voices of America» called the detention of Alexei Navalny at the airport «Sheremetyevo» one of the most anticipated actions of the Russian authorities.
When asked whether this option fits into the logic of the actions of the current Russian authorities, the expert replied: «I think that the logic could have been different, because Navalny could have been really jailed in the Kirovles case eight years ago. But at different times, the authorities had different logic – then they planted, then released. They were imprisoned for short periods, then they were allowed to make exposing videos and collect tens of millions of views».
«Well, now we have chosen this option. Obviously, since Navalny remained alive (after the poisoning), more standard measures will be applied to him, i.e. imprison», – believes Dmitry Travin.
St. Petersburg: responses to the return of Navalny
On January 16 and 17, St. Petersburg law enforcement officers also showed increased vigilance. So, on Saturday, the coordinator was detained «Open Russia» Dmitry Skurikhin, who earlier this week announced his intention to travel to Moscow to «Vnukovo» meet with others the founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation.
For a single picket near Gostiny Dvor, civil activist Svetlana Kovalets was detained, holding a poster with one of the last cartoons of Sergei Elkin and the inscription «BULK!». The head of the headquarters of Alexei Navalny in St. Petersburg Irina Fatyanova and civil activist Ilya Gantvarg were removed directly from the train heading to the capital of the Russian Federation. True, later they, like other detainees, were released, and Fatyanova even managed to get to Moscow on time..
To the correspondent of the Russian Service «Voices of America» managed to get through to Fatyanova when she hurriedly began to get ready from the Moscow airport «Vnukovo» in «Sheremetyevo». She jokingly calls her journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow after three hours in one of the police stations «teleportation». «In Vnukovo, I did not get inside, because the riot police fenced off everything. We stood near the screen where Alexei Navalny was supposed to go out. And inside there were fans of Olga Buzova, who held flowers and posters in their hands. For some reason, they could go to the waiting room, but we – not. People were allowed into the departure area only with tickets. About an hour before the expected flight arrival “Victory” the police began to use violence and force people out of the airport. And on the street every now and then there was a chant “Russia will be free!” and “Shame on the police!” because very harsh detentions continued», – Irina Fatyanova told.
When it turned out that the plane from Berlin was redirected to Sheremetyevo, some taxi drivers said that they were ready to take those who met Alexei Navalny there for free.. «We are driving our car, but I saw that other people were grouping and catching a taxi. It’s pretty decent to go from Vnukovo to Sheremetyevo, and if a miracle doesn’t happen, or if Alexei doesn’t stay late at the exit, I’m afraid we may not be in time. Of course, I really wanted to meet him, but I think that the people who had planned everything in advance with the flight of his plane did their best to make many of those who meet him late.», – says the head of Navalny’s headquarters in St. Petersburg.
Deputy of the City Legislative Assembly of St. Petersburg Maxim Reznik assesses the above actions against St. Petersburg activists and journalists as «part of the overall picture of the actions of the Russian authorities», which can be characterized as «absolute insanity associated with bunker tantrum».
«What happened to the plane, – transferring it from Vnukovo to Sheremetyevo – just another disgrace», – continued opposition politician. «After all, it is clear that behind these “aerobatics” the whole world is watching now. And on the one hand, our political opponents, they are the current Russian “leaders”, look just funny and disgusting. On the other hand – I am very ashamed of the country, ashamed that we have such a power that is disgraced to the whole world. They are real Russophobes – those who are now sitting in the Kremlin or in a bunker with a remote control in their hands regulate the route of the plane in which it flies “Berlin patient” and “unknown blogger”», – convinced Maxim Reznik.
According to the interlocutor «Voices of America», if Russians want their country to be respected, they must do everything possible to change the current government.
«I do not presume to predict when this will happen. This is about my colleague, and I am not going to predict anything about him. But I know for sure that in our country, as in other countries, most people, as yet unconsciously, strive for freedom and justice.», – summed up Reznik.