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Fears grow as opposition leader Navalny goes missing from prison cell in Russia

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Alexei Navalny

Alexei Navalny

Alexei Navalny

Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader, has disappeared from his jail and is being held by the Russian state in an unknown location, according to his spokesman.

The 45-year-old has been taken from the prison colony outside Moscow where he was serving his previous sentence, Kira Yarmysh said yesterday.

“His lawyer who came to see him was kept at the checkpoint until 2pm and was then told: ‘There is no such convict here’,” she said.

It is assumed he is being transferred to another prison, but there has been no official announcement.

A Russian court last month upheld a verdict convicting the jailed politician of embezzlement and sending him to a high-security prison for another decade.

But his sudden disappearance has worried his supporters. “We don’t know where Alexei is now and what colony they are taking him to,” said Ms Yarmysh.

Neither his lawyers nor relatives had been informed of his upcoming prison transfer, she added.

Russian prison authorities routinely keep relatives of inmates in the dark about transfers, often taking weeks before officially informing them of their whereabouts.

“The problem with his transfer to another colony is not only that the high-security colony is much scarier,” Ms Yarmysh said.

“As long as we don’t know where Alexei is, he’s at the mercy of the [Russian government] system that has already tried to kill him.”

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Mr Navalny was initially jailed in January 2021 after he returned to Russia from Germany where he was recovering from a near-fatal poisoning in Siberia. The court then ruled to convert his suspended sentence into jail time.

He was tried on a separate set of charges this spring and was sentenced to nine years behind bars, which means he is due to be transferred to a high-security prison.

Mr Navalny and his associates describe his criminal prosecution as Vladimir Putin’s personal vendetta.

Mr Navalny, who emerged as Putin’s nemesis a decade ago, issued a message to supporters two weeks ago, joking that Putin was shielding him from a potential nuclear war by announcing new charges against him.

The details of the new criminal case are unknown.

But the politician has said that he is now facing charges of founding an “extremist group” which could keep him behind bars for even longer. (© Telegraph Media Group Ltd 2022)

  

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022]


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