Updated Jun 15, 2022 - World

Putin critic Navalny moved to high-security prison after abrupt transfer

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on a screen during a hearing in Moscow on May 24.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on a screen during a hearing in Moscow on May 24. Photo: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images

Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny said Wednesday he was moved from the prison where he was serving out a sentence since February 2021 to a high-security facility.

Why it matters: Navalny supporters, including his lawyer, were unaware of his whereabouts for several hours on Tuesday because of the abrupt transfer, which came after he recently received a new nine-year sentence and charges that could add up to 15 additional years.

  • He was already serving a prison sentence of about 2.5 years at a prison camp around 74 miles east of Moscow for violating parole after fleeing to Germany to recover from a poisoning attempt by Russia's security forces in 2020.
  • He has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin and other Kremlin officials of corruption.

What they're saying: "Alexei Navalny was transported away from the penal colony No. 2," his spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said in a tweet Tuesday.

  • "His lawyer, who came to see him, was kept at the checkpoint until 14.00, and was then told: 'There is no such convict here,'" Yarmysh added.
  • "The problem with his transfer to another colony is not only that the high-security colony is much scarier. 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."

The big picture: Navalny said he was transferred to a high-security penal colony IK-6 in Melekhovo, which is about 155 miles east of Moscow.

  • Multiple inmates who served time in the Melekhovo prison have accused guards of beating, humiliating and raping them, according to the Washington Post.
  • "Melekhovo is a high-security colony. Conditions there are already worse than in other prisons: fewer parcels, fewer visits. But it's even worse than that: there is no law there. And that's where Putin wants to put Navalny for not being afraid of him and telling the truth," Yarmysh said in May, after hearing rumors that Navalny may be sent there.
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