Allies of imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny don’t know where he is after Russian authorities moved him from the penal colony where he was serving time.
“Navalny was transported away from the penal colony No. 2. 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.’ We do not know where Alexei is now and what colony they are taking him to,” Kira Yarmysh, Navalny’s spokesperson, said via Twitter on Tuesday.
Yarmysh said that Navalny’s attorneys and his relatives were not informed about his transfer in advance. She went on to say that there were “rumors” Navalny was to be transferred to the high-security penal colony IK-6 in Melekhovo, but added it’s “impossible to know when (and if) he will actually arrive there.”
The primary concern with Navalny’s transfer to another prison is not just that “the high-security colony is much scarier,” Yarmysh said, but that as long as his whereabouts are unknown then the Kremlin critic “remains one-on-one with the system that has already tried to kill him.”
Olga Mikhailova, Navalny’s attorney, told CNN that he was transferred to a maximum-security prison “but we don’t know which one.”
“Where he is exactly, is unknown to us,” Mikhailova added.
Russia’s state news agency TASS reported Navalny is being moved to Melekhovo, east of Moscow, according to CNN.
Navalny, who is President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent Russian critic and has worked to expose corruption in Russia, was poisoned in the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok while in Siberia in August 2020. The poisoning, which nearly killed Navalny, was widely blamed on Putin. A number of the Russian leader’s critics and opponents have died in suspicious or violent ways. Putin has denied any involvement in Navalny’s poisoning.
After he was poisoned, Navalny received treatment in Germany for several months. Upon returning to Russia in early 2021, he was promptly arrested and charged with violating the terms of his parole over a 2014 embezzlement conviction including while he was being treated abroad post-poisoning. Rights groups have decried the charges against Navalny as politically motivated. His imprisonment prompted mass protests in Russia.