MOSCOW -- Germany has sent to Russia the transcripts of interviews its authorities conducted with Aleksei Navalny, and demanded that Moscow carry out a full investigation into the poisoning of the Russian opposition politician.
The move on January 16 came a day ahead of Navalny’s planned return to Moscow following several months in Germany, where he was sent for treatment following his August 2020 near-fatal poisoning that he has blamed on Russian authorities.
The Kremlin critic has said that he will return to Russia despite having received a notice that the country's Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) would seek his arrest, setting the stage for a potentially dramatic new showdown between the Kremlin and Navalny, one of President Vladimir Putin's most outspoken foes.
Late last month, FSIN demanded Navalny return immediately from Germany or face jail in Russia for violating the terms of a suspended prison sentence relating to a 2014 fraud conviction and for evading criminal inspectors.
According to court documents, he could face a jail sentence of as much as 3 1/2 years.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled in October 2017 that the Russian courts violated Navalny's right to a fair trial in the case.
Navalny has faced numerous arrests and jail terms as he has challenged Putin's rule over the past several years, mainly by organizing and leading protest events.
The Kremlin critic in August fell seriously ill during a flight from the Siberian city of Tomsk to the Russian capital. He was initially treated at a hospital in Omsk before being taken by air to Berlin.
Several laboratories in Western countries, including Germany, have determined that Navalny was poisoned by Novichok, a military substance developed in Soviet-era Russia.
Moscow denies any involvement and, in September 2020, said it needed more information, including clinical samples, to carry out an investigation into the poisoning.
The German Justice Ministry said that with the handing over of information requested by Moscow -- including blood and tissue samples -- the Russian government now has all the information it needs to carry out a criminal investigation.
A ministry spokesman said Berlin expects that "the Russian government will now immediately take all necessary steps to clarify the crime against Mr. Navalny."
"This crime must be solved in Russia. This requires investigations commensurate with the seriousness of this crime," the spokesman added.