Kremlin foe Navalny was moved from a prison east of Moscow, his allies say, but new site is unclear

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — Allies of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny said his lawyer was told in court on Friday that he had been moved from the penal colony east of Moscow where he has been serving time but was not told where he was taken.

The disclosure that Navalny was moved out of Penal Colony No. 6, in the town of Melekhovo in the Vladimir region, came at a hearing on a lawsuit he had filed against officials at the maximum security facility. The hearing was adjourned after that.

The whereabouts of Navalny, 47, have been unknown since his lawyers lost touch with him after Dec. 6.

Navalny spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said the politician’s lawyer was told in court that the politician “left the Vladimir region” on Monday.

“Where exactly (he was moved to) — unclear,” she wrote on X, formerly called Twitter.

The independent news outlet Sota reported that a document from the Vladimir branch of the State Penitentiary Service was read at the hearing, stating that Navalny left the penal colony “for a correctional facility located outside the Vladimir region” and further information will be provided once he arrives at the destination. No details about the destination were given.

Yarmysh confirmed the accuracy of the report to The Associated Press.

Navalny has been serving a 19-year term on charges of extremism at Penal Colony No. 6, about 230 kilometers (140 miles) east of Moscow. He was due to be transferred to a “special security” penal colony, a facility with the highest security level in the Russian penitentiary system.

Russian prison transfers are notorious for taking a long time, sometimes weeks, during which there’s no access to prisoners, with information about their whereabouts limited or unavailable. Navalny could be transferred to any of a number of such penal colonies across Russia.

Navalny has been behind bars since January 2021. As President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest foe, he campaigned against official corruption and organized major anti-Kremlin protests. His arrest came as he returned to Moscow from Germany, where he recuperated from nerve agent poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin.

Navalny has since been given three prison terms and spent months in isolation in Penal Colony No. 6 for alleged minor infractions. He has rejected all charges against him as politically motivated.

Navalny’s allies sounded the alarm last week, saying his lawyers were not let into the penal colony to see him, that letters to him were not being delivered, and that he was not appearing at scheduled court hearings via video link.

Yarmysh said Dec. 8 that those developments caused concern, given that Navalny recently fell ill and apparently fainted “out of hunger.” She said he is being “deprived of food, kept in a cell without ventilation and has been offered minimal outdoor time.”

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