Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been transferred to another location from his penal colony but the prison authorities are refusing to say where, Navalny's press secretary Kira Yarmysh posted on X on Dec. 11.
The authorities have refused to give Navalny's lawyers access to the politician for six days, and his location is currently unknown. The Kremlin has been trying to prevent Navalny from communicating with the outside world and delivering his messages.
The developments come amid an intensifying crackdown on the opposition by Russian dictator Vladimir Putin in the run-up to the 2024 presidential election. The imprisonment of Navalny, Russia's most prominent opposition politician, is widely believed to be Putin's vendetta for his criticism of the dictator.
The IK-6 Melekhovo high-security prison in the Vladimir region, where Navalny had been held, claimed that he is "no longer on their list" of prisoners, but "they refuse to say where he was transferred," Yarmysh said.
"Today, as on Friday, the lawyers tried to get to IK-6 and IK-7 — two penal colonies in the Vladimir region where Alexei might be," but both prisons "denied that he is being held there," Yarmysh posted again on Dec. 11.
Navalny did not appear in court via video link as expected on Dec. 7, which the prison representatives claimed was due to electricity problems, Yarmysh said.
On Oct. 13, three of Navalny’s lawyers — Igor Sergunin, Alexey Liptser, and Vadim Kobzev — were arrested on charges of being members of Navalny’s team – peaceful opposition activities that the Kremlin calls “extremism."
Alexander Fedulov, another attorney who represented Navalny, said on Oct. 17 that he had fled Russia.
Navalny had been serving a 2.5-year prison sentence since 2021 and a separate 9-year sentence on fraud charges since 2022. In that year, he was transferred to the IK-6 Melekhovo high-security penal colony.
In August 2023 a Russian court also sentenced Navalny to 19 years in a maximum security prison on extremism charges for creating the Anti-Corruption Foundation, a peaceful civic watchdog. According to the Russian independent media outlet Verstka, the latest verdict means he will be in jail until the late 2040s.
All these cases have been recognized as politically motivated and fabricated by international human rights organizations and governments.
In 2020 Navalny was also poisoned in Russia and flown for treatment in Germany. German doctors said he had been poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent — a chemical weapon produced by the Russian government.
The Insider, Bellingcat, CNN and Der Spiegel published an investigation according to which Navalny had been poisoned by agents of Russia’s Federal Security Service. They also identified the agents' names.