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Kremlin critic Navalny moved to undisclosed site

June 14, 2022

Navalny's lawyer went to visit him in prison, but was told by guards that "there is no such convict here." Russian authorities have not said where they have taken the opposition leader.

A picture provided by Russian state news agency TASS shows jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny appearing via video in a court in Moscow
Navalny was arrested in January 2021 after returning to Russia from Germany where he was recovering from nerve-agent poisoningImage: Sergei Karpukhin/TASS/dpa/picture alliance

Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny has been removed from a prison where he was originally serving his nearly 12-year sentence, his allies said on Tuesday.

His associates and supporters expressed concerns for Navalny's health and safety — particularly after he nearly died following an attack with a Soviet-era nerve agent in 2020.

What we know so far

Navalny's allies sounded the alarm on social media, saying he did not show up for a meeting with his lawyers at a prison camp in Pokrov, 119 kilometers (74 miles) east of Moscow.

His legal team was told "there is no such convict here," according to Navalny's chief of staff Leonid Volkov.

Neither Navalny's family nor his lawyer was told about the prison transfer.

Allies of the 46-year-old Kremlin critic are concerned that he has been taken to a new penal colony that is believed to have harsher conditions than his current 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.

He had been slated to be transferred into a maximum-security prison, after his latest appeal failed in late May.

The U.S. Department of State called on Russian authorities to grant Navalny's lawyers access to their client.

Navalny facing years in prison

Navalny is one of the most prominent critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Last month, the opposition leader appeared via video link in a Russian court. During the proceedings, he said Putin started a "stupid" war in Ukraine that was killing both innocent Ukrainians and Russians.

He was arrested in January 2021 when he returned to Russia from Germany. Navalny spent several months recovering from a near-fatal attack with the Soviet-era Novichok nerve agent. Navalny said Russian authorities were behind the attack, but the Kremlin has denied involvement.

The attack and his subsequent arrest sparked international condemnation, particularly from the European Union and the United States.

Navalny was first sentenced to 2 1/2 years for a parole violation. In March this year, he was sentenced to an additional nine years in prison on fraud charges, which Navalny says were politically motivated.

The Russian government has increasingly cracked down on the opposition leader's supporters, as well as other activists and independent journalists. Many of his allies face criminal charges, while his anti-corruption organization has been largely dismantled after the Russian government declared it an extremist organization.

rs/wd (AP, AFP, Reuters)