Russian prison officials ‘refuse to say’ where Navalny is, spokeswoman says

11 December 2023, 16:44

Alexei Navalny
Friends’ concern for Navalny. Picture: PA

The opposition leader is serving a 19-year term on charges of extremism, which he said are politically motivated.

The whereabouts of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny are unknown as officials at the penal colony where he was serving his sentence told one of his lawyers that he is no longer on the inmate roster, the politician’s spokeswoman said.

Prison officials “refuse to say where they transferred him,” Kira Yarmysh said in posts on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“It remains unclear where Alexei is,” she wrote.

Mr Navalny has been serving a 19-year term on charges of extremism in a maximum-security prison about 230 kilometres (more than 140 miles) east of Moscow.

He was 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.

He was due to appear in court on Monday via video link but did not, spokeswoman Ms Yarmysh said.

On X, she wrote: “It is already the sixth straight day that we don’t know where Alexei is and what is happening to him.”

Russia Election Putin Challenges
The jailed opposition leader has been the foremost critic of President Vladimir Putin (Gavriil Grigorov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

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

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.

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.

By Press Association

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