Crime & Justice

Putin critic Navalny confirms he is ‘fine’ after transfer to prison in Russian Arctic

Moscow, Dec 26 (EFE).- Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny said he is well on Tuesday, one day after he reappeared in a prison colony in Russia’s far north.

Navalny, one of president Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critics, had not been seen or heard from in nearly three weeks since being moved from a prison in the central Vladimir region.

“Do not worry about me, I am fine,” Navalny said in a letter that was shared on his Telegram channel. “I am very happy to have reached my destination.”

Navalny said that he had arrived at the IK-3 penitentiary in the town of Kharp, north of the Arctic Circle, after a 20-day journey from Moscow.

There were stops in several cities, the opposition leader said, including the Urals capital Yekaterinburg and Vorkuta, home to one of the most notorious Soviet-era Gulags.

He admitted that the prison transfer had been “quite exhausting,” but added that his state of mind was “excellent.”

“I didn’t expect that someone would find me until mid-January. That’s why I was so surprised when the door opened in the afternoon with the words: ‘Your lawyer has come.’ He said that you had lost sight of me and that some even cared about me. Thank you so much for the support!” he said.

Navalny’s lawyers had not been able to contact their client since Dec. 5, raising concerns among his associates and Western nations about his welfare.

The town of Kharp, which has a population of about 6,000, is almost 2,000 kilometers – or about 45 hours by train – from Moscow.

Kharp is less than 50 kilometers from Salekhard, the administrative capital of a territory that is larger than France but which is home to only half a million people.

According to one of his collaborators living in exile, Ivan Zhdanov, the prison – which is modeled on the notorious Gulags – bears the name of “Polar Wolf” and is considered one of the most isolated in all of Russia.

“To escape is practically impossible. On one side, hundreds of kilometers of tundra, on the other, the Arctic Ural mountains. That’s why they lock up the most terrible criminals and serial killers there,” Ivan Vostrikov, one of Navaly’s collaborators in the Siberian Tyumen region, said on social media.

One of the top managers of the expropriated oil company Yukos, Platon Lebedev, served part of his sentence at the prison.Ten days ago the Russian penitentiary services (FSIN) said Navalny had been transferred from the prison where he was serving his sentence in the Vladimir region “by virtue of the ruling handed down by the Moscow City Court on August 4”, which included a new 19-year sentence for extremism.

Navalny was moved from the prison in Vladimir, after he announced a campaign to counter Putin’s reelection.

The Russian leader has been in power since 2000.EFE

mos/ks

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