September 26, 2022
Putin critic Alexei Navalny has been abruptly transferred to an undisclosed location, raising safety concerns about the jailed Russian opposition leader.

Putin critic Alexei Navalny has been abruptly transferred to an undisclosed location, raising safety concerns about the jailed Russian opposition leader.

Top aides to Navalny have sounded the alarms that they do not know where he is located, why authorities opted to move him, and what the Russian government plans on doing to him.

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“Alexei 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,’” Navalny spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh tweeted. “We do not know where Alexei is now and what colony they are taking him to.”

The dissident’s chief of staff, Leonid Volkov, issued a similar statement on his Telegram channel. None of Navalny’s family members or relatives were notified about his apparent prison transfer, Yarmysh said.

“Neither Alexei’s attorneys nor his relatives were informed about his transfer in advance. There were rumors that he was going to be transferred to the high-security penal colony IK-6 ‘Melekhovo,’ but it is impossible to know when, and if, he will actually arrive there,” Yarmysh continued.

In May, Navalny fretted that Russian authorities might move him to the Melekhovo prison, a facility that has faced allegations of systematic torture and sexual violence, the Daily Mirror reported.

“My new sentence has not yet entered into force, but I’ve heard rumors that I’ll be transferred to the high-security colony in Melekhovo, where convicts get their fingernails pulled out,” he wrote on Twitter last month.

Navalny is currently serving an 11-1/2-year prison sentence and cautioned last month he could face an additional 15 years due to a fresh criminal case against him. The new case alleges he created an “extremist group in order to incite hatred towards officials and oligarchs.” His current sentence is the result of fraud and contempt of court charges.

Western officials such as Secretary of State Antony Blinken have repeatedly rebuked Russia for its treatment of Navalny and called for his release. Navalny has been a fervent critic of his own government, lambasting it as a bastion of thieves and criminals. He is the head of Russia of the Future, an opposition party to the ruling United Russia Party and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Navalny was most recently arrested in January 2021 when he returned to Russia from Germany after being treated for an alleged nerve agent attack. Navalny has publicly speculated the Novichok-class nerve agent poisoning attack originated from Russian state agents. The Kremlin has forcefully denied any involvement.

Despite the alleged assassination attempt and his imprisonment, Navalny has remained undeterred in his disparagement of the Russian government and Putin, recently condemning the bloody war in Ukraine and encouraging his Russian followers to protest the violence inflicted upon their neighbor.

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A number of staunch critics of Putin have died under suspicious circumstances. In recent months, several Russian oligarchs have also been found dead under peculiar circumstances. This, coupled with Navalny’s candor, has triggered concerns that the Kremlin might try to assassinate him.

“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,” Yarmysh said, “so our main task now is to locate him as soon as possible.”

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