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Muscovite loved in the regions. How Alexey Navalny became the main politician of Putin's era

Vlad Dokshin / 'Novaya Gazeta'
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Alexey Navalny is one of the most remarkable political figures of recent years. His investigations have been widely quoted and inspired countless memes. His rallies provided opportunities for people to connect and establish political initiatives. His broadcasts attracted hundreds of thousands of viewers. Even while in custody, he remained an active politician, directly influencing society and agenda.

In this review by '7x7', you will discover how Navalny went from an ordinary member of the Yabloko party in the 2000s to a real competitor of Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, the main anti-corruption investigator in the country, a political prisoner, and Putin’s personal enemy.

Beginning of Political Career

Graduate in law and finance, Alexey Navalny first acted as a politician in 2000, when he joined the Yabloko party. He helped organize rallies and assemble groups of lawyers on regional elections. This way, he met his allies – Ilya Yashin, who was an activist back then, politician Maria Gaidar, and future Kirov Oblast Governor, Nikita Belykh.

In 2004, Navalny established a 'Committee for Protection of Muscovites,' which fought illegal construction in the capital and corruption in this sphere. The Committee opposed dense construction and united initiative groups in different areas of the city. In 2005, Alexey Navalny advocated press freedom as part of the 'Democratic Alternative' ('DA!') youth movement.

Two years later, Navalny joined forces with writer Zakhar Prilepin (now a Putin’s sympathizer, who actively supports the war in Ukraine) and former deputy Sergei Gulyaev (he, on the contrary, has been calling the events in Ukraine 'a fratricidal carnage' since 2014 and was forced to leave Russia due to threats) to create a national democratic movement 'Narod' (‘People’). Navalny also participated in the 'Russian Marches,' hoping for the nationalists to become a political force. At this time, he also left Yabloko, who condemned him for 'nationalist activities.' Ilya Yashin believed that Navalny was expelled from Yabloko for demanding the resignation of the party chairman, Grigory Yavlinsky. Navalny himself said that he was disappointed in the organization’s spinelessness, which prevented it from fighting corruption.

Alexey Navalny stopped participating in 'Russian Marches' in 2013 after running for the mayor of Moscow. Despite this, he still supported the movement’s ideas, hoping that it would unite the conservatives. During the 2017 debates with the leader of the 'Novorossiya' movement, Igor Strelkov, Navalny expressed his desire to see all forces, including nationalists, joining the political fight. Nevertheless, during these years, he gradually distanced himself from openly expressing nationalist views. In the research conducted by the 'Sova' center, which studied the changes in Navalny’s position, the expert Alexander Verkhovsky claimed that this stance was no longer beneficial for the politician.

Запись видео с вопросами Стрелкову, 2017 год

Recording a video with questions for Igor Strelkov, 2017. Photo: Evgeny Feldman for the project 'This is Navalny' (CC-BY-NC)

Navalny’s views on the status of Crimea were rather controversial and elicited criticism from both Russians and Ukrainians. During an interview with 'Echo of Moscow' in 2014, he said that the peninsula belongs to those who inhabit it and that even though Crimea was 'invaded with the violation of all international regulations,' it 'will remain a part of Russia and will not become a part of Ukraine in the foreseeable future.'

During the pre-election campaign of 2018, Navalny wrote that the residents of Crimea should decide the fate of the region in a referendum and apologized for the previous harsh statement 'Crimea is not a sandwich.' The year 2022 marked a significant shift as Navalny condemned the war in Ukraine and called for the return of the occupied territories.

In 2009, Navalny relocated to Kirov, where he worked as a non-staff advisor to Governor Nikita Belykh (currently serving an 8-year prison term for bribery). While in Kirov, he successfully passed his bar exam and subsequently returned to Moscow in 2010 to join the bar association.

Since 2009, Alexey Navalny had been an active user of LiveJournal, utilizing the platform to publish his initial investigations into corruption within public procurement. In 2011, the court ruled the claim regarding embezzlement during the construction of the 'Transneft' pipeline in his favor. 

Navalny continued his fight against corruption by establishing the 'RosPil' project in 2010. Another notable initiative, 'RosYama,' focused on evaluating the condition of roads, while 'RosVybory' monitored elections and 'RosZhKKH' tracked violations in public utilities. These projects eventually merged to form the Anti-Corruption Foundation*.

Navalny also played a pivotal role in popularizing the slogan 'Party of Crooks and Thieves.' He started using this phrase in 2011, preceding the appearance of the website of the same name. Oppositionists actively used the slogan in their campaigns ahead of the 2011 State Duma elections. Posters, flags, and stickers with the inscription 'Party of Crooks and Thieves' were also popular among citizens who rallied to express their disagreement with the results of the elections, where United Russia then got the majority of parliamentary seats. 

Moscow Mayoral Elections 2013

In 2013, the RPR-PARNAS party nominated Alexey Navalny as their candidate for the mayoral elections. By this time, Sergey Sobyanin, appointed by Dmitry Medvedev, had completed his first term as Moscow Mayor and sought re-election. 

Встреча с избирателями на выборах мэра Москвы 2013 года

 

Meeting with voters during the 2013 Moscow mayoral elections. Photo: IlyaIsaev / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0 DEED)

Navalny was registered as a candidate and initiated an active campaign, which included holding daily meetings with citizens near metro stations, setting up 'Navalny's cubes,' and organizing a concert and a rally in his support. In conversations with journalists, Navalny outlined his plans, including expanding the powers of district authorities, authorizing gay pride events, and reforming migration policy. 

Despite Navalny's efforts, he secured second place in the elections with 27% of the vote, while Sobyanin won with 51.3%. Navalny alleged election fraud, claiming Sobyanin benefitted from administrative resources to secure an additional 1.5%, which decided the fate of the elections. The oppositionist threatened to rally people if the Moscow Election Commission did not overturn the results. Demonstrations indeed took place, gathering from 9,000 to 25,000 participants, according to various sources. 

However, neither the Election Commission nor the courts acknowledged the allegations of fraud. As of 2024, Sergei Sobyanin remains Moscow Mayor.

First Criminal Persecutions

The 'Kirovles case', which led to Navalny's exclusion as a presidential candidate in 2018, commenced in 2009 when Sergei Karnaukhov, the Vice Governor of Kirov Oblast, initiated an investigation into embezzlement at the state-owned logging company, 'Kirovles.'

According to investigators, Navalny, who was serving as an advisor to the head of Kirov Oblast at the time, along with the CEO of 'Kirovles,' intentionally sold 10,000 cubic meters of timber at a discounted price to Pyotr Ofitserov's 'Vyatka Timber Company.' Subsequently, the company resold the timber at a higher price, and Navalny and Ofitserov shared the profit. This purportedly resulted in a loss of 1.5 million rubles to the region's budget, with the estimated damage later increasing to 16 million rubles.

Алексей Навальный на судебном заседании по делу Кировлеса в Кирове, 5 декабря 2016 года

Alexei Navalny at a court hearing regarding the 'Kirovles case' in Kirov, December 5, 2016. Photo: '7х7'

Navalny and Ofitserov were given suspended sentences in 2013. They utilized the European Court of Human Rights to demonstrate that their trial rights were violated, which prompted authorities to reopen the case in 2017. However, the court merely upheld the original verdict.

Concurrently, in 2012, the Investigative Committee launched a case against Alexey Navalny and his brother, Oleg, for fraud and money laundering. Investigators alleged that Oleg Navalny convinced the Russian branch of 'Yves Rocher' to contract with the logistics firm 'Main Subscription Agency' ('Glavpodpiska'), which Alexey ran. The investigation concluded that Navalny's company overcharged for transportation services, resulting in the brothers defrauding 'Yves Rocher' of over 26.7 million rubles.

Another case emerged a year later, accusing the brothers of embezzling funds from the 'Multi-Profile Processing Company' (MPC), also serviced by Alexey’s logistics agency.

In 2014, Alexey Navalny received a 3.5-year suspended sentence, while Oleg was imprisoned. They were ordered to repay 4.4 million rubles in the MPC case and were fined an additional 500,000 rubles.

In 2015, the brothers filed appeals in two cases. During the subsequent investigation, Alexey Navalny was placed under house arrest, which he considered unlawful, prompting him to violate the terms of his detainment. In 2017, Alexey and Oleg lodged complaints with the European Court of Human Rights. One complaint, regarding violations of their rights during legal proceedings, was upheld. The court recommended compensation of over 80,000 EUR for moral damages. However, Russia’s Supreme Court upheld its verdict regarding the measure of restraint.

In December 2020, the Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) accused Alexey Navalny of violating the terms of his house arrest. At the time, Navalny was in Germany recovering from the consequences of poisoning. Upon his return to Moscow on January 17, 2021, he was apprehended at the airport. Eventually, the court replaced his suspended sentence with a real one, leading to Navalny's imprisonment.

Anti-Corruption Foundation*

The Anti-Corruption Foundation (ACF)*, which conducted investigations into Russian officials and state procurements, was established in 2011. Its first year of operation was funded entirely by donations from the public.

Among the most notable investigations conducted by the ACF* team are 'Chaika' (2015), which exposed the illicit enrichment of the family members of Russia's State Prosecutor, Yury Chaika; 'Don’t Call Him Dimon' (2017), and 'Putin’s Palace' (2021), which revealed the luxurious properties owned by Russia’s ex-president Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin. The release of the film 'Don’t Call Him Dimon' sparked protests across Russia, with many young people turning to YouTube to support Navalny, leading state propaganda to accuse the opposition of involving children in politics.

In addition to their investigative work, the ACF* engaged volunteers as election observers, scrutinized state procurements ahead of the Sochi Olympic Games, and conducted extensive surveys. The foundation's* activities contributed to the enactment of anti-corruption laws, such as the ban on officials purchasing expensive cars.

Алексей Навальный выступает перед сторонниками на детской площадке после запрета митинга в гайд-парке Саратова, 1 декабря 2017 года

Alexey Navalny delivers a speech to his supporters at a playground after the rally in Saratov's Hyde Park was prohibited, December 1, 2017. Photo: Evgeny Feldman for the project 'This is Navalny' (CC-BY-NC).

To diversify their funding sources, Navalny’s team developed a fundraising model where the foundation* accepted donations in various currencies, including bitcoins. In 2019, the Investigative Committee alleged that ACF* employees were involved in money laundering between 2016 and 2018, leading to the seizure of the foundation's* bank accounts and those of some members. In March 2020, the ACF* filed a complaint against Russia with the ECHR.

In October 2019, the Anti-Corruption Foundation* was designated as a foreign agent. In June 2021, the Moscow City Court declared it an extremist organization and ordered its dissolution. In May 2021, the State Duma passed a law prohibiting members of extremist organizations from holding elected positions in government bodies. This legislation was colloquially referred to as the 'anti-ACF* law' by the media.

Летучка в штабе ФБК, 2018 год

Meeting at the ACF* headquarters, 2018. Photo: Evgeny Feldman for the project 'This is Navalny' (CC-BY-NC).

Furthermore, individuals who donated to the foundation* also faced persecution. By February 2024, law enforcement had initiated at least 15 criminal cases for funding an extremist organization (Part 1 of Article 282.3 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation), and fined those individuals they could identify.

Navalny Headquarters*

On December 13, 2016, Alexey Navalny sent out a message to his supporters announcing his plan to run in the upcoming 2018 presidential elections as an independent candidate. Leading the charge at Navalny's campaign headquarters was Leonid Volkov, who had previously occupied a similar position during the 2013 Moscow mayoral elections. Together, Volkov and Navalny began setting up a series of regional headquarters. These hubs aimed to gather signatures endorsing Navalny's candidacy and recruit volunteers to support his cause, marking a groundbreaking move in Russia's political landscape.

While Navalny was ultimately barred from running in the presidential race, the significance of the campaign network endured. These headquarters* conducted local anti-corruption investigations, rallied activists, and participated in regional protests, often collaborating with other political groups. In 2018, members and supporters of the Yaroslavl headquarters* teamed up with Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) deputies to uncover evidence of Moscow's garbage being transported to a landfill near Yaroslavl. They organized patrols and attempted to block garbage trucks. One memorable anti-garbage protest saw representatives from three political movements sharing the stage: Navalny's supporters, the CPRF, and the Yabloko party.

Алексей Навальный во время президентского тура в Ярославле

Alexey Navalny during the pre-election tour in Yaroslavl. Source: Navalny's supporters' archive.

Alexey Navalny personally attended the opening ceremonies of regional headquarters*, although he missed some due to being detained under administrative charges. The first headquarters* opened on February 4, 2017, in Saint Petersburg. Navalny addressed the volunteers and held a press conference. Many attendees took pictures with him.

At the peak of the campaign, Navalny Headquarters* had about 80 divisions, including around a dozen that were self-organized. Following the 2018 presidential elections, 45 headquarters* in key regions continued their activities. Members and volunteers participated (or attempted to participate) in regional elections, exposing corruption cases and budget embezzlement. After the arrest of Khabarovsk Governor Sergei Furgal, Navalny’s supporters were among those who doubted his guilt. For instance, Navalny's headquarters* in Irkutsk collected signatures supporting Furgal's change of restraint from placement in a pre-trial detention center to house arrest.

Local authorities and law enforcement agencies tried to impede the opening and operation of the headquarters*. They pressured landlords, vandalized property, conducted police raids, and arrested active members. Some were forced to flee the country, but the majority persisted in their work even after the Investigative Committee initiated legal action against the Anti-Corruption Foundation*, resulting in extensive police raids.

From a legal standpoint, the entity known as Navalny Headquarters* never officially existed. However, in 2021, the Russian Prosecutor's Office filed a lawsuit seeking to designate the Headquarters*, along with the Anti-Corruption Foundation*, as an extremist organization. Fearing potential persecution of Headquarters* members on extremism charges, Leonid Volkov dissolved the movement. Subsequently, some of the former headquarters* transformed into independent political entities unrelated to Alexey Navalny or the ACF*.

The affiliation with Navalny Headquarters* led to many former coordinators, members, and volunteers feeling compelled to leave the country. Those who remained faced the looming threat of criminal prosecution.

On November 9, 2021, security forces arrested Liliya Chanysheva, a former coordinator of the Ufa headquarters*. In June 2023, she was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison for 'establishing an extremist organization.'

In the same legal proceeding, Ksenia Fadeyeva, a former coordinator of the Tomsk headquarters*, received a 9-year prison sentence, while the former head of the Irkutsk headquarters* was handed a 1-year suspended sentence.

As of 2024, several regional projects and activists, previously affiliated with Navalny Headquarters*, continue their work through media channels like Telegram, advocating against the war in Ukraine and opposing Putin's regime. These initiatives are present in the Chuvash and Udmurt Republics, as well as in Voronezh, Perm, Krasnodar, Chelyabinsk, Murmansk, and other cities.

In 2023-2024, the experience gained from Navalny Headquarters* proved beneficial for Boris Nadezhdin, an unsuccessful presidential candidate, who swiftly organized signature collectors across Russian regions. Even supporters of Vladimir Putin attempted to replicate Navalny's methods by establishing their own headquarters, but they never achieved the same level of visibility and popularity.

Presidential Elections 2018

Navalny entered the presidential race as the primary challenger to Vladimir Putin. He was a popular politician with a large following on social media and experience in organizing public demonstrations. His election platform included pledges to address social inequality, combat corruption, empower Russian regions, reform legislative and law enforcement systems, end military engagements in Ukraine and Syria, and transition towards a parliamentary system of government.

However, Navalny faced significant legal hurdles. Despite receiving support from the European Court of Human Rights, the Central Election Commission, led by Ella Pamfilova, refused to register him as a candidate citing a previous conviction in the 'Kirovles case.' Although the ECHR ordered a review in 2016 and the Russian Supreme Court complied, Navalny was convicted again in 2017 after a second investigation.

Before the CEC's decision, Navalny conducted campaign visits to 29 regions across Russia. His candidacy garnered support from 15,000 individuals in 20 cities. According to estimates from Navalny Headquarters*, over 700,000 voters expressed readiness to back his presidential bid during the 1.5-year campaign, with more than 200,000 signing up as volunteers. Russian citizens involved in Navalny's campaign spent over 3080 days in custody and paid fines totaling 19 million rubles.

This tremendous popularity had its consequences. Navalny had brilliant green poured over his face, and he was also detained for his calls for rallies. However, the most significant repressions and major arrests were yet to come.

Navalny then announced new protests, titled 'Voters' Strike,' and urged his supporters to boycott the elections. On January 28, 2018, residents of 118 Russian cities participated in rallies. Law enforcement detained 350 people in Moscow, including Navalny himself.

Задержание Навального на акции протеста "Он нам не царь" на Пушкинской площади в Москве, 5 мая 2018 года

 

Alexey Navalny's arrest at the protest rally 'He Is Not Our Tsar" on Pushkin Square in Moscow, May 5, 2018. Photo: Gleb Shchelkunov / Kommersant / Sipa USA / Vida Press

After Vladimir Putin's victory, the oppositionist organized new rallies. Massive protests under the slogan 'He Is Not Our Tsar' took place in multiple locations. Law enforcement detained participants brutally and beat them with batons. Over 1600 people across the country, including Navalny himself, ended up in detention facilities. 

Following the 2018 elections, Navalny and his team launched a project titled 'Smart Voting,' aimed at preventing United Russia candidates from winning elections. Navalny's team would analyze campaigns ahead of elections and suggest the best strategies for voters. As a result, in 2019, 20 candidates representing political forces other than United Russia were able to win seats in the Moscow State Duma elections.

Poisoning

In August 2020, Alexey Navalny traveled to Tomsk to collaborate with the local headquarters* on a film exposing corruption in the city's utility companies. On August 20, while aboard a flight back to Moscow, he suddenly fell ill. Media outlets circulated a video showing Navalny screaming in pain as medical personnel rushed to assist him. The flight made an emergency landing in Omsk, where Navalny was hospitalized and placed in a medically induced coma.

Navalny's supporters and his wife, Yulia Navalnaya, asserted that Alexey had been poisoned with a dangerous substance. They advocated for his transfer to a hospital in Germany; however, staff at the Omsk facility refused, citing Navalny's unstable condition. Approval for the transfer was finally granted the following day, but Omsk doctors continued to deny that Navalny had been poisoned. 

Алексей Навальный с семьей после отравления, 2020 год

Alexey Navalny and his family after the poisoning, 2020. Source: Alexey Navalny / personal archive

On August 22, Navalny was taken to Berlin and admitted to the Charité hospital. After two and a half weeks, on September 7, Alexey was brought out of an induced coma. The German government had already declared that the politician had indeed been poisoned. The research showed that he was exposed to ‘Novichok’, a nerve agent listed in the Chemical Weapons Convention for its potent neuro-paralytic effects.

Upon his recovery, Alexey Navalny conducted an investigation along with the journalist Christo Grozev. The politician called the military chemist of the Federal Security Service (FSB), Konstantin Kudryavtsev, and found out how the poisoning was organized. Apparently, ‘Novichok’ was placed on the codpiece of the politician’s underpants.

Multiple Criminal Cases

While Navalny was in the hospital, Russian security forces were working on his criminal cases. On September 16, 2020, when Alexey was in intensive care, FSIN officials visited his house and drew up a report on breaching the terms of his probation associated with the 'Yves Rocher case.' On December 28, FSIN declared that they could replace the suspended sentence with a real one because Navalny, who had been discharged from the Charité hospital by this time, was 'evading the penal inspection.'

The next day, December 29, the Investigative Committee initiated a case of fraud against Navalny. According to the investigators, Navalny spent 356 million rubles, donated by Russian citizens for 'the needs of various NGOs,' to organize vacations, purchase real estate, and acquire valuable items abroad.

Alexey Navalny was apprehended upon his return to Russia. Since January 17, 2021, he had been held in the pre-trial detention center and later in penal colonies.

Even before the poisoning, Navalny became the defendant in a new criminal case, initiated after the politician’s comments on an RT propaganda video about constitutional amendments. Navalny referred to those featured in the video as 'lackeys,' 'traitors,' and 'people without conscience.' The Investigative Committee considered these words as insults to the honor and dignity of the Great Patriotic War veteran, Ignat Artemenko. Navalny was fined 850,000 rubles.

In late May 2021, Navalny was informed about the criminal case for disrespecting Judge Vera Akimova, who presided over the case involving the veteran’s defamation. On March 22, 2022, the court announced the verdict in both this case and the fraud case. The politician was sentenced to 9 years in prison and fined 1.2 million rubles.

After Navalny’s entities were labeled as extremist, he became a defendant in the case of establishing an extremist organization. Another case was related to the creation of an NGO 'encroaching on the rights of people.' In August 2023, Alexey received another 19-year sentence.

'Currently, I have four cases against me. Two of them carry a maximum sentence of 10 years, the third one – up to 3 years, and the fourth one – up to 6 months. If they are combined without any reductions, it totals 23 years. Of course, they might still come up with something else, but the maximum cumulative sentence cannot exceed 30 years. So don’t worry, I'll definitely be out by spring 2051,' stated Navalny in September 2021.

Due to the sheer number of criminal cases and their cumulative sentences, Alexey Navalny was often likened to Nelson Mandela, who became president after serving 27 years in prison. Supporters of the politician hoped that a similar outcome would occur in Russia.

Navalny’s detainment upon his return to Russia was one of the reasons for massive protests on January 23 and 31. The second reason was the ACF* investigation into Putin’s palace in Gelendzhik. The rally on January 23 gathered between 110,000 and 300,000 participants, according to various sources. The protesters were massively and brutally detained; for example, in Saint Petersburg, a law enforcer kicked a retired woman. The total number of individuals detained on January 23-24 exceeded 4,000; Navalny’s wife, Yulia, was among them.

The rally on January 31 was as significant as the previous one, with between 200,000 and 300,000 participants. Law enforcers used tasers and tear gas against the protesters. At least 51 individuals were beaten up, including a man in Saint Petersburg who criticized the police for brutally apprehending a woman.

The subsequent rally, which gathered 70,000 to 120,000 participants, took place on April 21. It was also met with suppression, following the same pattern: violent detentions, beatings with batons, arrests, and both administrative and criminal cases.

Punishment Cell Torture

While in a penal colony in Pokrov, Vladimir Oblast, Alexey Navalny continued asserting himself as an active politician. In 2022, he was the first to expose the authorities’ strategy of placing inconvenient inmates in punitive isolation units (SHIZO). Navalny vividly described his life in harsh conditions, sparking public discussion. He did everything he could to raise awareness beyond the narrow circle of journalists and human rights activists about legalized torture in Russian prisons.

During the first year of imprisonment, the oppositionist wrote that his cell was extremely hot. Guards took away his mattress and pillow at 5 AM and removed the bed. Punitive isolation units are equipped only with a steel table, steel bench, a sink, and a toilet hole in the floor. Personal items are limited to a mug and a book. In one of his posts, Navalny called the punishment cell 'a hell closet.'

In December 2022, the politician was assigned a new cellmate who had problems with personal hygiene, apparently to make the already unbearable conditions even worse. Then, they placed a man who could scream for hours in the neighboring cell. For every 10 days in the punitive isolation unit, Navalny lost 3.5 kilograms.

Navalny was placed in the punishment cell for various reasons: for using the f-word in a conversation with another convict, for not placing his hands behind his back as required when walking along the corridor, for failing to fasten the top button on the tight-fitting robe, for refusing to wash a fence, and for improper greeting.

In early 2023, the politician’s supporters announced the exhibition of 'Navalny’s punishment cell.' This was an exact replica of the 2.5x3m cell where Alexey had been placed 10 times, totaling 105 days. The replica was created by Navalny’s brother, Oleg, who experienced this punishment himself seven times during his sentence for the 'Yves Rocher case.' 'Navalny's punishment cell' was taken to cities outside Russia to draw attention to the politician's situation and secure his freedom.

Инсталляция "ШИЗО Навального" в Гааге, Нидерланды, 11 мая 2023 года.

'Navalny's punishment cell' replica in The Hague, Netherlands, May 11, 2023. Photo: Charles M Vella / SOPA Images / Sipa USA / Vida Press

On February 14, 2024, Alexey Navalny was sent to the punishment cell for the 27th time. According to the politician’s press secretary, Kira Yarmysh, he had spent a total of 308 days there by that time.

Kharp

In December 2023, Alexey Navalny disappeared. His supporters were unaware of his whereabouts for 20 days. The administration of the strict regime colony #6 in Pokrov, Vladimir Oblast, where the politician had been transferred in June, stated that he was no longer in their facility. 

On December 25, Navalny’s lawyer met with his client at penal colony #3, known as 'Arctic Wolf', in the Kharp settlement in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug. 'This is one of the most northern and isolated colonies, characterized by extremely harsh conditions and a special regime in the permafrost zone. It is very challenging to reach,' explained Navalny’s ally, Ivan Zhdanov. A representative of the 'Political Prisoners. Memorial' project told the 'Agentstvo' media outlet that the location of the prison might be regarded as a form of pressure 'because of the severe climate alone.' In addition to harsh winters, the area experiences a high level of background radiation due to soil contamination with chromium and nickel, as explained by the expert.

As per '7x7's estimate, the distance between Moscow and Kharp is 3200 kilometers by car. It takes two days to travel from the capital to the town of Labytnangi in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug by train. Then, there is a one-hour bus ride to Kharp. According to one of the versions, the politician was deliberately relocated from the Central Federal District to make him unreachable ahead of the 2024 presidential elections.

In his first post about Kharp, Navalny jokingly said that he looked like Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost, a fairytale figure associated with New Year celebrations), as he was given a sheepskin coat, ushanka hat, and felt boots. He believed that severe weather conditions would be a sufficient punishment and that he would not be placed in the punitive isolation unit any longer. However, right after the quarantine, he was transferred there under the following pretext: 'Convict Navalny refused to introduce himself in the required form. He does not respond to educational work or make right conclusions.' Convicts held in punishment cells are allowed to go for a walk early in the morning, and Navalny's description of this experience was highly ironic. 'Nothing wakes you up quite as a 6:30 AM walk in Yamal. What a wonderful fresh breeze aerates the yard regardless of the concrete fence, oh my! Today I was walking, freezing, and thinking about Leonardo DiCaprio and his dead horse trick in 'The Revenant' movie. I don’t think it would work here, since a dead horse would freeze solid in about 15 minutes.'

Алексей Навальный на судебном заседании по видеосвязи, 11 января 2024 года

Alexey Navalny at a court hearing via video link, January 11, 2024. Photo: Dmitry Lebedev / Kommersant / Sipa USA / Vida Press

On February 1, Navalny voiced his support for the 'Noon Against Putin' initiative. According to this plan, those opposed to Putin should come to polling stations on the final day of the elections precisely at 12 PM. The politician also urged employees of the FSIN to vote against Putin.

The last time Alexey Navalny was seen alive was on February 15, when he participated in court hearings via video link.

On February 16, 2024, at 14:19, the Federal Penitentiary Service for the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug issued a press release, announcing that the prisoner Alexey Navalny had lost consciousness after a walk. Despite the arrival of an ambulance, he could not be revived.

*The texts mentions organizations Meta Platforms Inc., Anti-Corruption Foundation, and Navalny Headquarters, whose activities are prohibited in the Russian Federation

Original

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