MOSCOW – Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny announced Wednesday that he intended to return to Russia this weekend, four months after being evacuated to Germany after an attempt to assassinate him in Siberia.
“The question of whether or not to return has never crossed my mind,” wrote Navalny on Instagram. “That’s because I didn’t go. I ended up in Germany for one simple reason – in an intensive care unit: They tried to kill me.”
Navalny was poisoned in Siberia in August where he was placed in an artificial coma by local doctors. His condition was described as severe and after several days of lobbying by the federal government and activists, he was flown to Berlin in an ambulance.
In Berlin, German scientists discovered that the toxin is a type of Novichok nerve agent. This weapon was made by the Soviet Union, and Russia claims to have destroyed its supplies of substance. Several independent laboratories in several countries supported the results of Germany.
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Novichok was also used by Russian secret agents in an attempt to assassinate former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in the UK in 2018. Russia has denied involvement in the trial because it has denied the attempt to assassinate Navalny.
“I survived,” wrote Navalny in his post. “And now Putin, who gave the order for my murder, is shouting all over his bunker, ordering his servants to do everything possible to prevent me from returning. The servants behave as always: they invent new criminal charges against me. “
Navalny has been signaling for months that he wants to return to Russia after being poisoned. During this time, he faced additional legal challenges from the government and Putin’s allies.
Navalny and his followers interpret this as a message to say that he would be better off staying in Germany.
“But I am not interested in what they do,” wrote Navalny on Wednesday. “Russia is my country. Moscow is my city. I miss her. That’s why I went to the Pobeda construction site this morning [airlines] and bought tickets. On January 17th, Sunday, I will return home. “
Navalny made it clear his intention to return in October in an interview. The then Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that as a Russian citizen, Navalny had every right to return. However, Peskov and other officials have also alleged that Navalny is a CIA asset.
The return of Navalny sets the stage for a potentially dramatic showdown between Putin’s regime and its most prominent critic.