Aleksei Navalny says he will return to Russia on Sunday


He said on Wednesday that he now believes he is well enough to return to Russia. He said he planned to travel on the low cost airline Pobeda and would arrive in Moscow on Sunday.

“Come meet me!” he said.

A few days after his release from a medically induced coma at Charité Hospital in Berlin in September, Mr Navalny pledged to return to Russia. But his surprise announcement on Wednesday about when to return rocked Russian policy – setting up a high-stakes decision for the Kremlin on how to respond.

Last month, working with open-source investigative organization Bellingcat, Mr. Navalny posted two YouTube videos documenting an elaborate plot by Russia’s home intelligence service, the FSB, to kill him. The videos have been viewed a total of 45 million times.

At the same time, the Kremlin has increased the pressure on Mr Navalny, signaling that he would end up in jail if he returned to Russia. President Vladimir V. Putin described Mr. Navalny as a CIA asset and joked that if Russian agents had wanted to kill the opposition leader, “they probably would have finished the job.

But jailing the opposition leader would carry risks for the Kremlin, as the move could spark protests and, announcing his imminent return, Mr Navalny appears to be calling Mr Putin’s bluff. An ally of Mr. Navalny, Lyubov Sobol, was jailed in Moscow for 48 hours in December and then released.


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