Navalny: arrested on arrival

After recovering from his poison attack, Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny returned to Russia from Berlin on Sunday as announced. In Moscow he was arrested even before he reached passport control at the airport. A court date for alleged violation of probation and compulsory registration has been set for the end of the month. How wise was he to return - and Moscow's decision to react this way?

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Ekho Moskvy (RU) /

A smart leadership would have ignored him

In a commentary piece in Echo of Moscow, Lev Schlossberg, chairman of the Pskov regional branch of the social-liberal party Yabloko, says it was rash of Moscow to arrest Navalny:

“If the Russian state were smart, it would have simply ignored, even boycotted, Navalny's return. A Russian citizen returns from Germany after receiving medical treatment there. So what? Feigning disinterest would have been more effective than all the threats they have thrown at Navalny. But there's no one in the Russian leadership today who is able to make rational decisions. ... In this system, the way Navalny was received in Moscow is a decision made at Putin's level. It is implemented by the power bloc. For domestic policy, on the other hand, there is no bloc in Russia.”

NV (UA) /

Putin's fear is growing

Everything indicates that Navalny now poses a serious threat to the Kremlin, journalist Ivan Jokovyna argues in

“Alexei Navalny has become Putin's curse. Putin never utters his surname nor does he say anything about his activities. And he even wanted him secretly killed. This shows that Putin deeply fears him. ... It suited Putin quite well that Navalny was in Germany. Throughout history, political emigrants have always been harmless for those in power. But when a political emigrant returns home, as Lenin once did, they become a real threat.”

Handelsblatt (DE) /

Navalny would have had more influence in exile

Handelsblatt doubts whether returning was the smartest move if Navalny wants to be a real threat to Putin:

“In the Russian election year 2021, Navanly is a very real threat for those in power. Even in solitary confinement in Russia, it should be said. Because if Navalny is handed a conviction, his fate behind bars would cast a dark shadow over his opponent Putin. But a Navalny living in freedom and filling his Youtube channel 'Navalny live' with scathing and well-founded criticism would be more valuable for the opposition. And thanks to the Internet, Navalny could exert much more influence nowadays on the (c)old homeland than Solzhenitsyn could in exile.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

He's no Lenin

The Russians are not fighting for Navalny yet, Rzeczpospolita comments:

“In recent days he has been compared with Lenin, who returned in an armoured train from Switzerland via Germany to Petrograd [today's St. Petersburg] and later became the leader of Bolshevik Russia. The problem with this analogy is that Lenin returned in April 1917, after the fall of the czars. Nicholas II abdicated in March. Large-scale protests and workers' strikes were already under way. Putin has no intention of abdicating and this will not change until at least 2024. We are also not seeing thousands of people demonstrating outside the walls of the Kremlin to defend their imprisoned opposition leader. The workers are not striking; oil and gas are flowing into the west. Is this going to change just because Navalny gets sent to a labour camp for a few years?” (RU) /

Russia's reanimation has begun

In a Facebook post picked up by, political analyst Sergei Medvedev can already sense a marked revival in Russia's political life:

“Navalny is (un)really cool. Those who commissioned his poisoning thought they could control time. They froze history in Russia, gave us eternal Putinism (with or without the man himself), and believed they could send Navalny to nirvana - and if not to the afterlife, then at least into eternal exile like [Mikhail] Khodorkovsky. But Navalny is resetting the clock. He is tearing Russia out of its state of deep freeze, out of its drugged New Year's sleep, out of perma-Putinism. He is turning the very fact of his return, even just buying the tickets, into a big event. He is forcing the Kremlin, its hardliners and all of us to take a stand.”

Frankfurter Rundschau (DE) /

Focused on victory

Can Navalny bring Putin down? The Frankfurter Rundschau has this to say:

“Unlikely - because the power relations are clear. But not impossible - because the Putin regime refuses to learn its lessons and harms itself. ... The secret service agent [Putin] is still confident that he has the backing of the majority of the population. But increasingly, 18 to 24 year-olds (51 percent) mistrust the regime. This is what Navalny is counting on. After his brush with death, more than ever he is acting as if he has nothing to lose. So it's no coincidence that Navalny is returning to Russia with 'Podeba' airlines. It's a statement: Podeba means victory.”

Der Tagesspiegel (DE) /

Prison or insignificance

Now that the Russian prosecutor's office is investigating him over alleged fraud involving donations, Navalny will probably be sent to prison upon his arrival in Russia, Tagesspiegel notes:

“But of course he knows this - just as he knows he has no other option. He must return if he wants to continue to play a political role in Russia. A role he would lose by remaining in exile. He would end up like the former chess champion Garry Kasparov, who lives in the US, and Mikhail Khodorkovsky in Switzerland. Vladimir Putin has successfully put them on ice.”