© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny participates in a rally in Moscow
By Anton Zverev MOSCOW (Reuters) – Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny is on a national wanted list for allegedly violating the terms of a suspended prison sentence and is at risk of being imprisoned for three and a half years when he returns to Russia this weekend. week, one of his lawyers. he said Thursday. Navalny announced Wednesday that he plans to fly back to Russia on Sunday for the first time since he was poisoned in August with a Novichok nerve agent, despite the risk of being jailed upon his return from Germany. The Kremlin denies being involved in his poisoning, said it has seen no evidence that he was poisoned, and has said he is free to return to Russia at any time. Navalny on Wednesday ignored the growing list of legal threats and called criminal cases against him, of which there are at least two pending, fabricated to thwart his political ambitions. Vadim Kobzev, one of Navalny’s lawyers, told Reuters on Thursday that Navalny had now been included on a national wanted list because Russia’s prison service accuses him of failing to inform them late last year in connection with a suspended sentence for embezzlement he was serving. Navalny said the original case against him was made up and that he was in Germany at the time being treated as an outpatient for his poisoning, so he couldn’t come forward. The prison service says that he was discharged from a Berlin hospital in September and therefore should have. He returned to Moscow and informed them. “In theory, they can detain him as soon as he arrives (in Russia), but initially only for 48 hours,” said Kobzev, who said he expected a court to hear details of the case on January 29, at which point he could order his suspended sentence that will become real time in jail. “The court can change his entire suspended sentence to a real one and give him three and a half years in jail,” Kobzev said. Leonid Volkov, an ally of Navalny, has said that Navalny will become the world’s highest-profile political prisoner if imprisoned, comparing him to Nelson Mandela, and has said that he would become a symbol of resistance to the Kremlin. The Kremlin, which refers to Navalny only as “the Berlin patient,” says it is up to the relevant law enforcement agencies to decide how he is treated.