Alexei Navalny, the jailed Russian opposition leader, has not been heard from for nearly a week and his lawyers have been unable to contact him, his supporters have said.
Navalny, the anti-corruption activist who became a leading opponent of Vladimir Putin, was convicted of extremism and other charges and is set to remain in prison for three decades. He has called the charges against him politically motivated and said he believes he will not be released while Putin is alive.
“We unfortunately don’t know anything about his status yet,” Kira Yarmysh, an aide to Navalny, told the Guardian. “Today is the sixth day that the lawyers have not seen Alexey.”
On Monday, Navalny’s supporters said he again failed to appear by videoconference for a court hearing, with prison officials blaming a power outage. Later that day, Navalny’s lawyers were told he was no longer listed as a prisoner at IK-6, the penal colony where he has been incarcerated in the Vladimir region near Moscow.
“We assume that he could have been transferred, and that’s why other lawyers are trying to get in another colony in the Vladimir region – this is IK-7, a colony of special regime (Alexey is to be transferred to this regime, but we don’t know the exact colony, so this is just a guess),” said Yarmysh.
She later said Navalny was also not listed as a prisoner at IK-7 and “we still don’t know where he is”.
Special regime prisons have some of the harshest conditions in Russia, and would limit Navalny’s ability to meet visitors or write or receive letters for years after his term begins.
Navalny’s disappearance came shortly before Putin announced his candidacy in next year’s presidential elections, which would mark his fifth term in power as president. Putin is the longest-serving Kremlin leader since Stalin and he would surpass that record if he stood for a sixth term, extending his rule until 2036.
Navalny’s supporters have launched an anti-Putin guerrilla campaign including billboards in Moscow, St Petersburg and Novosibirsk with a QR-code linking to a website that calls for Putin critics to use non-violent “partisan” tactics to voice their dissent.
It is possible that the government is seeking to silence Navalny and cut him off from his supporters before the election campaign. Those close to Navalny say he has suffered from health problems during his time in prison, collapsing last week and being put on an IV, possibly due to malnutrition.
“Given the inhumane conditions in which he is being held – there is no ventilation, no hot water in the cell, and he isn’t being properly fed, it could have been hunger fainting,” said Yarmysh. “Nevertheless, lawyers have since seen Alexey afterwards and he has been relatively well. But then he disappeared.”
#Jailed #Russian #activist #Alexei #Navalny #heard #week #Alexei #Navalny