Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny located at Siberian penal colony two weeks after disappearance
Dec 26, 2023, 1:32 PM | Updated: Dec 27, 2023, 5:46 am
(Evgenia Novozhenina, Reuters)
(CNN) — Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny has been located at a penal colony in Siberia, his team said Monday, two weeks after they lost contact with him.
“We have found Alexey,” his spokesperson Kira Yarmysh said in a statement on X, formerly Twitter.
She said Navalny’s lawyer had visited him earlier Monday.
Navalny’s lawyers said on December 11 they had lost contact with him. Until then, he was imprisoned in a penal colony about 150 miles east of Moscow.
Yarmysh told CNN on Tuesday that Navalny was doing well and was in good spirits. She added that his health was no worse than it was prior to his transfer, though the process was “very physically challenging.”
“The fact that we (found) him so quickly is a good thing. And now Alexey will be able to work more profoundly, even given the fact that he (will) be isolated in this new prison,” Yarmysh said.
Yarmysh said it was a “miracle” that Navalny’s team had found him. They filed 680 requests to locate Navalny before learning of his whereabouts, she said.
Navalny had “never been hidden for so long,” his team said after he was absent from two scheduled court hearings last week. They warned he had been in poor health before his disappearance after being “deprived of food” and “kept in a punishment cell without ventilation.”
His disappearance, which came just days after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced he will run for re-election in March 2024, had sparked concerns for his well-being and safety.
Ivan Zhdanov, director of Navalny’s anti-corruption foundation, said the IK-3 penal colony in Kharp where Navalny is now being held, known as “Polar Wolf,” is “one of the northernmost and most remote colonies.”
“The conditions there are harsh, with a special regime in the permafrost zone. It is very difficult to get there, and there are no letter delivery systems,” Zhdanov wrote on X.
Zhdanov said Navalny’s lawyer had not been allowed into the penal colony “right away.”
“It seems that the colony was prepared for his arrival in advance. The head of the Federal Penitentiary Service, Arkady Gostev, was there in April, and perhaps it was then that they decided to transfer Alexey there,” he added.
Kharp, in the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District, is almost 2,000 miles from Moscow, where Navalny had previously been held.
He had been sentenced to 19 years in prison in August after being found guilty of creating an extremist community, financing extremist activities and numerous other crimes. He was already serving sentences of 11-and-a-half years in a maximum security facility on fraud and other charges he denies.
Supporters of Navalny claim his arrest and incarceration are a politically motivated attempt to stifle his criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Navalny has posed one of the most serious threats to Putin’s legitimacy during his rule. He used his blog and social media to expose alleged corruption in the Kremlin as well as Russian business, and organized anti-government street protests.
In 2020, Navalny was poisoned with Novichok, a Soviet-era nerve agent, and airlifted from the Siberian city of Omsk to a hospital in Berlin, where he arrived comatose.
A joint investigation by CNN and the group Bellingcat implicated the Russian Security Service (FSB) in Navalny’s poisoning. Russia denies involvement in Nalvany’s poisoning. Putin said in December 2020 that if the Russian security service had wanted to kill Navalny, they “would have finished” the job.
Navalny was immediately incarcerated upon his return to Russia in January 2021, on charges of violating the terms of his probation related to a fraud case brought against him in 2013, which he also dismissed as politically motivated.
CNN’s Catherine Nicholls contributed to this report.