Kremlin critic Navalny says he is in solitary confinement

MOSCOW — Imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny says prison officials have ordered him to spend at least three days in solitary confinement, citing a minor offense, in retaliation for his activism behind bars.

On Monday, a message about the punishment appeared on Navalny’s social media accounts. It was not immediately clear how the politician got the information out – the post says those in solitary confinement are not allowed to have visitors, letters or packages, the only possessions Navalny has at his disposal are “a mug and a book”, and he gets a pen and some paper for a little over an hour a day.

Navalny, President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest enemy, was arrested in January 2021 when he returned from Germany, where he was recovering from nerve poisoning he attributed to the Kremlin. He was sentenced to 2½ years for violating the terms of his parole while outside Russia.

In March, Navalny was sentenced to nine years in prison on charges of fraud and contempt of court, charges he dismissed as a politically motivated attempt by the Russian authorities to keep him behind bars for as long as possible.

During his time behind bars, his social media accounts were regularly updated with posts about life in prison. Just last week, Navalny announced the creation of a convict union, which he said was the only member at the time. Navalny said the union has successfully advocated replacing backless stools with chairs in the sewing shop at the prison where he works.

According to the report published Monday, union activity was the real reason prison officials sent him to solitary confinement: “The Kremlin wants its GULAG to be made up of voiceless slaves. And here I am, instead of begging forgiveness, uniting some people and demanding that some laws be followed.”

The post said Navalny had been summoned by prison officials and said video surveillance revealed that he frequently unbuttoned his prison clothing while in the work area. “This definitely characterizes me as a hopeless villain. So a decision has been made to send me to solitary confinement for three days,” the post read.

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If Navalny “does not change (his) attitude,” his stay there would be extended, prison officials told him, according to the post.

The post described loneliness as “the most severe punishment in the legal prison hierarchy” – a small concrete cell, in which “it is very hot and there is almost no air”. There is a metal bed attached to a wall, and a mattress and pillow are not brought in until 9pm and taken away at 5am

“You are now allowed to visit, letters are not allowed, parcels are not. It is the only place in the prison where even smoking is not allowed,” the message reads.

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