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Putin critic to return to Russia despite arrest threat

Alexei Navalny, an ardent critic of President Vladimir Putin, says he is due to fly back to Russia on Sunday, for the first time since he was poisoned last summer.

Mr. Navalny told reporters in Germany that he was returning home despite plans by the authorities there to arrest him and potentially jail him for years.

Analysts note that Mr. Navalny’s return poses a dilemma for the Kremlin: either to jail him and risk protests and punitive Western action or do nothing and risk looking weak in the eyes of Kremlin hardliners.

The forty-four-year-old opposition politician is expected to fly from Berlin, where he was flown in August for emergency medical treatment after being poisoned with what German doctors confirmed to be a Novichok nerve agent. He is scheduled to arrive in Moscow on Sunday at 1620 GMT.

Mr. Navalny, who says he has nearly fully recoveredhas continually accused Mr. Putin of being behind his poisoning. But the Kremlin denies involvement, saying it has seen no evidence that he was poisoned, and that he is free to return to Russia.

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