Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has confirmed he has been returned to solitary confinement – this time for refusing to wash a fence.
After rising in popularity due to his public condemnations of President Putin, and – through the investigative work of his “‘Anti-Corruption Foundation” (FBK) – for exposing alleged criminality in Russia’s ruling party, United Russia, Navalny received a suspended sentence for embezzlement in 2013.
The charge, considered by many to be politically motivated with the intention of barring him from running against Putin in future elections, was followed by a further suspended sentence in 2014, with The European Court of Human Rights ruling that the cases violated Navalny’s right to a fair trial.
Eventually banned from running for office, in August 2020, the outspoken politician and lawyer was hospitalized after being poisoned with the Novichok nerve agent, with an investigation later concluding that Russia’s Federal Security Service was implicated in the alleged assassination attempt.
Navalny then found himself behind bars in 2021 after returning to Russia from Berlin, where he had been receiving medical assistance – had his suspended sentence being replaced with a custodial sentence of over two and a half years (later increased by nine years following additional charges of embezzlement and contempt of court).
Since his sentencing, Navalny has been incarcerated at the Pokrov Correctional Colony in Vladimir Region, where he has complained of being deprived of sleep and denied access to a civilian physician.
Persistently seeing his appeals denied, Navalny now says he has been returned to a cramped solitary confinement cell for 14 days for refusing to wash a prison fence.
“I just did 12 days in there, and now I’m doing 14 again,” Navalny said in a statement posted on Twitter by his lawyer. “I understand painting a fence and feeling like Tom Sawyer is fun. But washing a fence, in my opinion, is totally insane.”
The politician’s controversial detainment has previously sparked widespread protests in Russia, and Amnesty International has officially designated him as a political prisoner.
Navalny continues to say that the charges against him were fabricated.
Writing in the Washington Post on Sept. 30, Navalny condemned the war in Ukraine and suggested what steps should be taken to deter Russia from launching future wars.
“The issue of post-war Russia should become the central issue — and not just one element among others — of those who are striving for peace,” he wrote. “No long-term goals can be achieved without a plan” to ensure that “Russia must cease to be an instigator of aggression and instability.”
To this end, Navalny proposed the introduction of a parliamentary republic, adding:
“While I commend European leaders for their ongoing success in supporting Ukraine, I urge them not to lose sight of the fundamental causes of war.
“The threat to peace and stability in Europe is aggressive imperial authoritarianism, endlessly inflicted by Russia upon itself…. Only a parliamentary republic can prevent this. It is the first step toward transforming Russia into a good neighbor that helps to solve problems rather than create them.”
Kyiv Post Chief Editor Bohdan Nahaylo commended Navalny for clarifying his position, writing: “Navalny has often been accused of being a Russian imperialist himself and failing to condemn more forcefully Putin’s aggression against Ukraine, annexation of its territory and denial of its right to exist as a sovereign state with its distinct Ukrainian nation.”
“But now, while sharing his thoughts on the need to democratize Russia and transform it into a parliamentary republic, he has spoken out very clearly on the key questions concerning Ukraine and relations with the West.”
“With this new powerful piece in the Washington Post Navalny may well have restored his credentials as a credible leader of the Russian opposition seeking to fundamentally transform Russia into a democracy, good neighbor and respectable member of the international community,” Bohdan added. “Fingers crossed that this provocative piece from Putin’s best known political prisoner will stimulate reflection and action in Russia itself.”
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