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Kremlin Critic Navalny Located at Siberian Penal Colony After 2-Week Disappearance

Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny, who had been missing for two weeks, has been located at a penal colony in Siberia. His spokesperson, Kira Yarmysh, confirmed his whereabouts, stating that he is currently in IK-3 in the settlement of Kharp in the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District. Navalny’s lawyer visited him, assuring that he was “doing well.” His disappearance had raised concerns about his health and safety.

Loss of Contact

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Navalny’s lawyers had lost contact with him on December 11. He had previously been imprisoned in a penal colony approximately 150 miles east of Moscow.

Previous Health Issues Caused Worry

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His prolonged absence from two scheduled court hearings had triggered worries, especially given his previous health issues and reports of being deprived of food and kept in a punishment cell without proper ventilation.

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Political Implications

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Alexey Navalny’s disappearance coincided with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement of his intention to run for re-election in March 2024. Critics and supporters of Navalny had expressed concerns about the timing and circumstances of his absence, considering it part of a broader effort to silence his criticism of Putin and his administration.

Remote Penal Colony

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Navalny is now held in the IK-3 penal colony, known as “Polar Wolf,” situated in Kharp, one of the northernmost and most remote colonies in Russia. The harsh conditions of this permafrost zone make access difficult, and there is no established letter delivery system.

Lawyer’s Visit

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It took some time for Navalny’s lawyer to gain access to the penal colony. This delay has raised questions about whether the colony was prepared for his arrival in advance. The head of the Federal Penitentiary Service, Arkady Gostev, had visited the colony in April, potentially influencing the decision to transfer Navalny there.

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Distance from Moscow

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Kharp is nearly 2,000 miles away from Moscow, where Navalny was previously incarcerated. The remote location adds to the challenges faced by his legal team and supporters.

Legal Troubles

Navalny had been sentenced to 19 years in prison in August on charges of creating an extremist community, financing extremist activities, and other crimes. He was already serving an 11-and-a-half-year sentence in a maximum-security facility for fraud and other charges, which he has consistently denied.

Political Motivation

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Supporters of Navalny argue that his arrest and imprisonment are politically motivated attempts to silence his opposition to President Putin. Navalny’s activism and exposure of alleged corruption in the Kremlin and Russian business have posed a significant challenge to Putin’s rule.

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Previous Poisoning

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In 2020, Navalny was poisoned with Novichok, a Soviet-era nerve agent, and subsequently treated in a hospital in Berlin. Investigations by CNN and Bellingcat implicated the Russian Security Service (FSB) in the poisoning, although Russia denies involvement.

Return to Russia

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Upon his return to Russia in January 2021, Navalny was immediately incarcerated for allegedly violating the terms of his probation related to a 2013 fraud case. He has consistently maintained that these charges are politically motivated.

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