Vladimir Putin's main political rival Alexei Navalny 'disappears from prison'

11 December 2023, 15:29

Alexei Navalny has not been seen in six days
Alexei Navalny has not been seen in six days. Picture: Getty
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Vladimir Putin's main political rival Alexei Navalny has disappeared from a penal colony in the east of Moscow.

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He did not appear in court on Monday as he faces charges of extremism, which could lead to a 19-year jail term.

His allies say they have not heard from him or his lawyer in six days.

Prison spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh says prison officials electricity problems for his lack of appearance in court.

"It is already the sixth straight day that we don't know where Alexei is and what is happening to him," Ms Yarmysh wrote on Twitter.

Mr Navalny, 47, has been behind bars since January 2021.

Alexei Navalny
Alexei Navalny. Picture: Getty

As President Vladimir Putin's fiercest foe, he campaigned against official corruption and organised major anti-Kremlin protests.

His arrest came upon his return to Moscow from Germany, where he recuperated from nerve agent poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin.

Read More: Ukrainian 'traitor' ex-MP assassinated in Russia after he called for Putin to use weapons of mass destruction

Read More: Vladimir Putin to stand for fifth term as Russian president next year

Mr Navalny has since been handed three prison terms and spent months in isolation in a penal colony in the Vladimir region east of Moscow for alleged minor infractions.

He has rejected all charges against him as politically motivated.

Last week, Ms Yarmysh said that for three days in a row Navalny's lawyers spent hours at the penal colony waiting for permission to visit him, only to be turned away at the last minute.

Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin. Picture: Getty

Letters to the politician were not being delivered, and he did not appear at scheduled court hearings via video link.

Mr Navalny is due to be transferred to a "special security" penal colony, a facility with the highest security level in the Russian penitentiary system.

Russian prison transfers are notorious for taking a long time, sometimes weeks, during which there is no access to prisoners, and information about their whereabouts is limited or unavailable.

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