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Alexei Navalny says he is 'doing fine' in special regime Arctic prison

Corporate Russian lawyer Alexei Navalny poses in his office in Moscow, Russia.
Corporate Russian lawyer Alexei Navalny poses in his office in Moscow, Russia. Copyright Alexander Zemlianichenko/Copyright 2010 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Alexander Zemlianichenko/Copyright 2010 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Euronews with AFP
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On Monday, the United States said it was "deeply concerned" about Navalny's "conditions of detention" and demanded his release. The Russian opposition leader was located nearly 3 weeks after losing contact with him.

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The imprisoned Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny, whose fate is causing concern in the West, said on Tuesday that he was "doing well" after a long and "tiring" transfer to a remote prison colony in the Russian Arctic.

His family, who had had no news of him for nearly three weeks, announced on Monday that they had traced him to a penal colony in Kharp, in the Yamalo-Nenets region, beyond the Arctic Circle.

They claim that the Russian authorities are seeking to isolate him even further, a few months before the March 2024 presidential election in which Vladimir Putin's victory appears to be a foregone conclusion.

In his first message on social networks since his disappearance, Alexei Navalny said that the 20-day journey to his new place of detention had been "quite tiring".

"But I'm in good spirits, like Father Christmas", he added, referring to his "beard" which had grown during the long journey and his new winter clothes suitable for polar temperatures.

"Whatever happens, don't worry about me. I'm fine. I'm relieved to have finally arrived", he said.

Alexei Navalny, 47, a charismatic anti-corruption campaigner and Vladimir Putin's number one enemy, is serving a 19-year prison sentence for "extremism". 

He was arrested in January 2021 on his return from convalescing in Germany for poisoning, which he blames on the Kremlin.

He disappeared at the beginning of December from the prison colony in the Vladimir region, 250 kilometers east of Moscow, where he had been held until then, which meant that he was likely to be transferred to another establishment.

'Special regime' colony

According to the verdict for "extremism" against Mr Navalny, the opponent must serve his sentence in a "special regime" colony, the category of establishments where conditions of detention are the harshest and which are usually reserved for lifers and the most dangerous prisoners.

He said he had arrived at his new prison colony on Saturday evening, after a discreet journey and "such a strange itinerary" that he did not expect to be found by his family until mid-January.

"That's why I was surprised when the cell door opened yesterday and I was told: 'A lawyer is here for you'", he said, expressing his gratitude for the "support" he had received.

One of his close associates, Ivan Jdanov, accused the Russian authorities of trying to "isolate" him in the run-up to the presidential election.

a group of officers walk inside a prison colony in the town of Kharp, in the Yamalo-Nenetsk region.
a group of officers walk inside a prison colony in the town of Kharp, in the Yamalo-Nenetsk region.AP/Human rights ombudsman of Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District

According to him, Alexei Navalny is being held in "one of the northernmost and most remote settlements" in Russia, where conditions are "difficult".

In the West, his disappearance caused concern that was not entirely allayed by his reappearance in a very remote region.

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On Monday, the United States said it was "deeply concerned" about Alexei Navalny's "conditions of detention" and demanded his release.

Mr Navalny's movement has been methodically eradicated by the authorities in recent years, driving his collaborators and allies into exile or prison.

In early December, the Russian authorities brought new charges of "vandalism" against the anti-corruption activist, which could add another three years to his sentence.

Vladimir Putin is aiming for a new six-year term in the Kremlin in the March presidential election, a term that would take him until 2030, when he turns 78.

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