Kremlin critic transferred to penal colony outside Moscow

Published March 1, 2021
A still image taken from video footage shows Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is accused of flouting the terms of a suspended sentence for embezzlement, inside a defendant dock during the announcement of a court verdict in Moscow, Russia on February 2. — Reuters/File
A still image taken from video footage shows Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is accused of flouting the terms of a suspended sentence for embezzlement, inside a defendant dock during the announcement of a court verdict in Moscow, Russia on February 2. — Reuters/File

MOSCOW: Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has been transferred to a penal colony east of Moscow to serve a term for violating parole, a public commission that monitors detainees’ rights said on Sunday.

President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent opponent was sentenced this month to two-and-a-half years at a facility in the Vladimir region, about 200 kilometres east of the capital.

He was convicted of violating parole terms while in Germany recovering from a poisoning attack.

For several days, Navalny’s allies were unaware of his whereabouts, with the head of the Federal Prison Service saying on Friday only that he had been transferred from a Moscow detention centre to a penal colony.

Navalny sentenced to two-and-a-half years for violating parole terms

Reports based on unnamed sources circulated in local media over the weekend about Navalny’s possible location, before Moscow’s public commission said in a statement that he was in a Federal Prison Service institution in the Vladimir region.

“We have 100 per cent information that Navalny arrived in the Vladimir region to serve his sentence,” a member of the commission, Alexei Melnikov, told the Interfax news agency.

“At first, he will be in quarantine, then he will be transferred to his colony,” he added.

Reports in Russian news agencies suggested that the opposition figure’s final destination would be penal colony no. 2 in the town of Pokrov.

State news agency RIA Novosti reported that the colony was “strict” regarding “disciplinary compliance”, and that Navalny will find it difficult to make calls, with cell phones banned and a payphone that often does not work.

Another state news agency, TASS, cited an unnamed source as saying that the Kremlin critic will have the option of working as a cook, librarian, mask sewer or machinist.

No threat to life

Navalny spent months recovering in Germany from the near fatal poisoning with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok that he claims was ordered by Putin, a claim the Kremlin has repeatedly denied.

The 44-year-old politician was arrested on his return to Moscow last month, sparking a wave of protests across the country and a brutal police crackdown.

He was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in a penal colony for violating the terms of a 2014 suspended sentence for fraud charges that the European Court of Human Rights has deemed “arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable”.

Last week the Strasbourg-based court ordered Russia to release Navalny, saying his life was in danger in prison, but Moscow swiftly rejected the call. The Kremlin critic has denounced the investigation as politically motivated.

Published in Dawn, March 1st, 2021

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