Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has announced he plans to fly home to Russia on Sunday, despite having narrowly survived a suspected FSB assassination attempt there and facing a fresh threat of jail on his return.
The 44-year-old, who has been in Germany since August when he was airlifted there in a coma suffering from Novichok poisoning, has always insisted he would return to Russia, despite the clear threats he faces there.
In a defiant social media post Wednesday, he said he was now healthy enough to return, and has already bought his tickets on Pobeda, a Russian budget airline.
“The question ‘to return or not’ never stood before me,” he said on Instagram. “On Sunday, January 17, I will return home.”
In a further sign that he has no intention of slipping home quietly, Navalny again accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of having ordered his killing, and brushed aside the renewed threat of imprisonment he faces on his return.
On Tuesday, Navalny had revealed that Russia’s penitentiary service had asked a court to jail him, alleging he had breached the terms of a suspended sentence relating to a 2014 conviction that the European Court of Human Rights has ruled was politically motivated.
“Now Putin, who gave the order for my murder, screeches all over his bunker and tells his servants to do everything so that I do not return. The servants act as usual: they fabricate new criminal cases against me,” Navalny wrote.
“But what they do there is not very interesting to me. Russia is my country, Moscow is my city, and I miss it.”
Navalny also faces an additional legal threat from new fraud charges announced last month over allegations he misappropriated 365 million roubles (about £3.5 million) from his Anti-Corruption Foundation. The charges could land him up to 10 years in jail.
In his post, Navalny said the new criminal cases against him were a “demonstratively fabricated” attempt to prevent him returning home. Russia is due to hold crucial parliamentary elections in September, where Navalny’s opposition movement will seek to capitalise on relatively low levels of support for Putin’s party.
READ: Doctors think they found the source of Navalny’s poisoning
Navalny fell ill on a flight from the city of Tomsk in Siberia in August. Since recovering he has worked with investigative journalism website Bellingcat to identify the members of the FSB hit squad who tried to kill him.
Navalny has repeatedly humiliated the Kremlin over the poisoning during his time in Germany, on one occasion tricking one of the attackers into an apparent confession during a recorded phone call.
In response, Putin has described the allegations of Kremlin involvement in the poisoning as a fabrication by Western intelligence, and denied Russian security services had played a part in the attack.
“If they wanted to do it, they’d have finished the job,” he told a press conference last month.