Whereabouts of Jailed Russian Opposition Leader Navalny Unknown

The whereabouts of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny are currently unknown, with his allies saying he is no longer at the penal colony where he had been imprisoned since last year. 

Russian officials have not said where Navalny was taken, and there has been no comment from the Kremlin.

Navalny’s spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, said Monday had been due to make a court appearance via video link but did not. She said the prison cited problems with the electricity. The spokeswoman said the last time his lawyers and allies had heard from him was six days ago. 

Navalny was sentenced to 19 years in prison in August on charges of extremist activity. He was serving his sentence in a maximum-security prison, Penal Colony No. 6, in the town of Melekhovo in the Vladimir region more than 225 kilometers east of Moscow.

According to the Associated Press, Navalny had been expected to be transferred to a “special security” penal colony with the strictest security level in the Russian prison system. Transferring inmates from one prison to another in Russia can take weeks, with inmates having to take trains across the vast country, with limited to no information given about their well-being or location. 

The United States has expressed concern over the situation, with White House national security spokesman John Kirby saying, “He should be released immediately. He should never have been jailed in the first place.”

Navalny is considered Russian President Vladimir Putin’s strongest rival. He was arrested in January 2021 after returning from Germany, where he received treatment for nerve agent poisoning he blamed on the Kremlin. Moscow has denied involvement.

Navalny has campaigned against corruption and faced a number of charges that he denies.

Some have speculated Navalny’s disappearance was strategically timed, as it is the beginning of a campaign period for a presidential election.

“0% coincidence and 100% direct manual political control from the Kremlin,”

Navalny aide Leonid Volkov posted on X, formerly Twitter, in regard to the timing. “It is no secret to Putin who his main opponent is in these ‘elections’. And he wants to make sure that Navalny’s voice is not heard.”

Navalny’s disappearance also comes as some have grown concerned over his health.

Recently, “He felt dizzy and lay down on the floor. Prison officials rushed to him, unfolded the bed, put Alexei on it and gave him an IV drip. We don’t know what caused it, but given that he’s being deprived of food, kept in a cell without ventilation and has been offered minimal outdoor time, it looks like fainting out of hunger,” Navalny spokeswoman Yarmysh said.

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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