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Russia detains Putin critic Navalny upon defiant return to Moscow

Alexey Navalny, a Russian opposition leader and fierce critic of the Kremlin, flew back to Moscow following five months in Berlin, where he was recovering after he was allegedly poisoned by Russia’s FSB spy agency. At airport border control, Navalny kissed his wife goodbye before Russian law enforcement promptly detained him, as expected.

Moscow’s prison service said it had orders to arrest Navalny because he violated conditions after an embezzlement conviction. Navalny, one of Russian Putin Vladimir Putin’s top rivals, has maintained the charges were politically motivated. Still, while he was always aware of his impending detainment, he told reporters it never crossed his mind not to return home to Moscow. “This is my home,” he told reporters who traveled with him. “I’m not scared of anything.”

Alexei Makarin, the deputy director of the Center for Political Technologies in Moscow, told Bloomberg that Navalny could have stayed in Germany, but in that case the Russian people “would quickly lose interest in him.” Now, the anti-corruption activist may be seen as a “symbol of resistance behind bars and a big risk for Putin.”

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Navalny’s wife and lawyer, however, opted to wait behind passport control where Navalny was taken, which reportedly suggests there’s a chance he’ll be released “with a writ of summons.”

As far as the United States is concerned, if Russia does continue to hold Navalny, former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul argues it will be the first big foreign policy test for the Biden administration.