Russia sends Putin opponent Navalny to penal colony for 18-month sentence

Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny in a Moscow court on February 16, 2021.
Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny in a Moscow court on February 16, 2021. © Babuskinsky District Court Press Service via Reuters

Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has been transferred to a penal colony where he will serve more than two years, the head of Russia's prison service said on Friday.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin's most prominent opponent was this month sentenced to two years and six months in a penal colony for breaching parole terms while recovering in Germany from a poisoning attack.

"He has been transferred to where he is supposed to be under the court ruling," state news agency RIA Novosti quoted Alexander Kalashnikov, the head of the Federal Prison Service, as saying. 

Kalashnikov did not disclose the name of the prison but insisted that Navalny would serve his sentence in "absolutely normal conditions”.

"I guarantee that there exists no threat to his life and health," he added.

Last week the European Court of Human Rights ordered Russia to release Navalny, saying his life was in danger in prison, but Moscow swiftly rejected the call.

A spokeswoman for the federal prison service said she could not provide further details and was not at liberty to release personal data about convicts.

Navalny's lawyer Vadim Kobzev told AFP on Friday he was still unaware of his client's whereabouts.

On Thursday afternoon the opposition politician's defence team said Navalny had been transferred from a Moscow jail to an unknown location, possibly to a penal colony.

Amnesty campaign

Navalny spent months recovering in Germany from the poisoning with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok that saw him fall ill on a flight in Siberia in August. 

Russia has denied involvement but Navalny has said it was ordered by Putin.

Navalny was immediately arrested after his return to Moscow in mid-January, and Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience.

However Amnesty Wednesday said it no longer accorded Navalny that status due to past comments he made that qualify as advocacy of hatred.

The rights organisation did not specify which comments it was referring to. Navalny has been criticised for past nationalist statements against illegal immigration.

Amnesty defended its decision Thursday and said it opposed Navalny’s prosecution and detention. 

“There should be no confusion: Nothing Navalny has said in the past justifies his current detention, which is purely politically motivated,” its statement said.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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