Russian law enforcement is threatening to jail opposition politician Alexey Navalny for failing to comply with the terms of his suspended sentence in a years-old case if he fails to show up for a hearing in Moscow on Tuesday morning, his lawyer and officials said.
Navalny is currently in Germany after receiving treatment at Berlin’s Charite clinic following his poisoning in August with the nerve agent Novichok.
The Russian Federal Penitentiary Service said in a statement Monday that by staying in Germany following the recovery “from his illness,” Navalny is violating the terms of his suspended sentence. The opposition politician believes the case is politically motivated.
“Based on the [Lancet] publication, A.A. Navalny was discharged from the Charite Clinic on September 20, 2020, and by October 12 all of the symptoms of his illness have passed,” the Federal Penitentiary Service’s statement says.
“Thus, the conditionally convicted person is not fulfilling the obligations assigned to him by the court and is evading the control of the penal inspection [service].”
The service adds that Navalny has been ordered to appear at the penal control facility in Russia; otherwise he will be liable and his suspended sentence will be replaced with a real one.
Navalny’s lawyer Vadim Kobzev tweeted late Monday that he received an order from the penal control services ordering Navalny to show up in Moscow by 9 a.m. on Tuesday.
The case in question, often dubbed the “Yves Roche case,” dates back to 2014 when Alexey Navalny and his brother Oleg were convicted of embezzling about $500,000 from two Russian firms between 2008 and 2012. One of the firms was affiliated with a French cosmetics company, Yves Rocher, and the investigation alleged that the Navalnys laundered part of the sum. Both were sentenced to three and a half years in prison, but Alexey’s sentence was suspended.
Navalny responded to the news in an Instagram post saying: “Like I said, somewhere there is [Vladimir] Putin in his bunker, stomping and yelling ‘Why didn’t he die?’ and if he didn’t die then he is twice guilty and now we will jail him.”
“But if The Lancet publication is being recognized on the state level, where is the the criminal case into the poisoning?!” he added.
Navalny’s press secretary Kira Yarmysh tweeted: “It’s just fantastic. The Penitentiary Service knowing full well that Navalny is being treated in Germany is trying to jump on the last train (Alexey’s probation period ends on December 30!) and demands that he reports for inspection tomorrow!”
The State Department last week issued the most decisive statement yet from the Trump administration, blaming the Russian Security Service for the poisoning of Navalny, days after CNN reported on the first direct evidence of the agency’s involvement in the poisoning.
The State Department would not explain why the US has not inflicted any cost on Russia for this poisoning or issued a statement sooner. Wednesday’s statement came after repeated requests for comment from CNN.
An investigation by CNN in cooperation with the investigative journalism website Bellingcat revealed that an FSB toxins team of about six to 10 agents trailed Navalny for more than three years before he was poisoned in August with the lethal nerve agent.
That report was followed by the revelation by a Russian agent sent to tail Navalny that they planted the nerve agent in his underpants, a detail that emerged when Navalny called the man and, posing as a member of Russia’s National Security Council, pressed him for details of the operation.