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Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny appears from prison via video link at a courtroom in Vladimir, Russia on June 7. Photo: AP

Jailed Putin critic Alexei Navalny moved to high-security penal colony

  • Russian opposition figure reportedly taken to a penal colony with harsher conditions
  • Navalny is serving prison sentence for parole violations, fraud and contempt of court

Alexei Navalny, Russia’s most prominent opposition leader, has been abruptly moved from the prison where he was serving an 11½ year sentence to a high-security penal colony farther from Moscow.

Navalny earned admiration from the disparate opposition in 2021 for returning to Russia voluntarily in 2021 from Germany, where he had been treated for what Western laboratory tests showed was an attempt to poison him in Siberia with a Soviet-era nerve agent. Russia denies trying to kill him.

His chief of staff Leonid Volkov said that when Navalny’s lawyer arrived on Tuesday at Correctional Colony No 2, a prison camp in Pokrov, 119km (74 miles) east of Moscow, he was told: “There is no such convict here”.

“Where Alexei is now, and which colony he is being taken to, we don’t know,” Volkov said on the Telegram app.

But later, regional prison observer Sergey Yazhan said that Navalny had been taken to the IK-6 penal colony at Melekhovo near Vladimir, about 250km east of Moscow.

Yazhan is chairman of the local Public Monitoring Commission, an organisation tasked with protecting the rights of prisoners in each Russian region and working closely with prison authorities.

Kremlin critic Navalny compares Russian prison to Chinese labour camp

Prison transfers in Russia sometimes take days and are shrouded in secrecy. Russian authorities did not disclose the location of the new penal colony, but it is thought to have harsher conditions than the prison in Pokrov.

“The problem with his transfer to another colony is not only that the high-security colony is much scarier,” Navalny’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said on Twitter.

“As long as we don’t know where Alexei is, he remains one-on-one with the system that has already tried to kill him, so our main task now is to locate him as soon as possible,” she added.

She said that neither Navalny’s family nor his lawyer were notified in advance of the transfer.

The United States called on Russia to grant Navalny access to his lawyers and medical care and condemned the “politically motivated” actions against him.

Russian authorities “will be held accountable by the international community for anything to befall Mr Navalny,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in Washington.


Putin foe Navalny sentenced to nine years in jail after Russian activist convicted of fraud

Putin foe Navalny sentenced to nine years in jail after Russian activist convicted of fraud

Navalny casts President Vladimir Putin’s Russia as a dystopian state run by thieves and criminals where wrong is right and judges are corrupt representatives of a doomed elite.

Just last month, he lambasted Putin via video link in a Russian court, casting him as a madman who had started a “stupid war” that was butchering the innocent people of both Ukraine and Russia.

Navalny was jailed for parole violations on his return from Germany.

Then, on March 24 this year, he was sentenced to a further nine years in prison for fraud and contempt of court. He says all the charges against him are fabricated and aimed at thwarting his political ambitions.

Russian opposition leader Navalny wins EU’s Sakharov Prize

The judge ordered that Navalny be transferred to a maximum-security prison, where his rights to visits and correspondence will be reduced.

Navalny’s political network has been largely dismantled, having been banned as an “extremist” organisation. Senior aides and organisers have been either jailed or forced into exile.

Navalny said two weeks ago that he had been charged in a new criminal case with creating an extremist organisation and inciting hatred towards the authorities, offences that carry a maximum sentence of 15 more years.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse