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The Kremlin Misread Navalny’s Resolve to Fight, Even From Prison

  • Authorities plan harsh crackdown now that activist back home
  • Supporters hope arrest will raise domestic, international heat
Alexey Navalny boards a flight from Berlin to Moscow on Jan. 17.
Alexey Navalny boards a flight from Berlin to Moscow on Jan. 17.Photographer: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images
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Russian officials were convinced opposition leader Alexey Navalny wouldn’t come back.

They’d warned he’d be jailed on arrival and steadily ratcheted up threats of new probes, amid allegations ranging from stealing supporters’ donations to working for U.S. intelligence. Even fellow Kremlin critics told the 44-year-old activist it was too dangerous to return from Berlin, where he’d been recovering from a nerve-agent attack he and Western capitals blamed on President Vladimir Putin.