The Kremlin just upped the ante amid soaring tensions with Germany and the EU over the Alexei Navalny affair, on Monday giving the allegedly poisoned Russian dissident an ultimatum: return to Russia right away for face prison.
Reuters details that "Russia's prison service on Monday gave Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny a last minute ultimatum: Fly back from Germany at once and report at a Moscow office early on Tuesday morning, or be jailed if you return after that deadline."
Russian officials have repeatedly condemned Berlin's refusal to allow Russian investigators access to either any of the evidence or Navalny himself, following Germany's prior conclusion that Russian intelligence tried to assassinate him using Soviet-made Novichok nerve agent in August.
Russian officials have also been adamant that Navalny was relatively unknown and obscure even among the domestic population, much less on a global stage, but is now basking in the international limelight simply by accusing Russia and Putin directly, as the now recovered Kremlin critic has done in multiple interviews.
Russia has adamantly denied this narrative of events, instead claiming Navalny is serving as a stooge of Western intelligence in choreographed efforts to gain more political leverage over Moscow, and as justification for further sanctions. The EU recently imposed sanctions on top Russian intelligence officials over the Navalny case, to which Russia responded this month by announcing its own travel ban on select EU officials.
This new Russian ultimatum apparently stems from a prior criminal case and Navalny's allegedly violating a suspended prison sentence agreement previously brokered with authorities.
Reuters explains, "The Federal Prison Service (FSIN) on Monday accused Navalny of violating the terms of a suspended prison sentence he is still serving out over a conviction dating from 2014, and of evading the supervision of Russia's criminal inspection authority."
That initial case centered on theft allegations, something Navalny has long claimed was cooked up by his political enemies in order to damage his reputation as an opposition figure. Certainly at this point, he's not going to return to Russian soil any time soon and will likely be offered a path to citizenship by Germany.
The Charité hospital in Berlin where he had been emergency airlifted from Russia in September had announced that after 32 days in care, Navalny’s condition had "improved sufficiently for him to be discharged from acute inpatient care." He was said to be completely recovered with no symptoms of the prior alleged August poisoning by early October, something the Kremlin has said is deeply suspicious and makes no sense given how deadly or at the very least permanently damaging Novichok is.