Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny looks on during an interview with AFP at the office of his Anti-corruption Foundation (FBK) in Moscow on January 16, 2018.
The Kremlin's top critic Alexei Navalny has slammed Russia's March presidential election, in which he is barred from running, as a sham meant to "re-appoint" Vladimir Putin on his way to becoming "emperor for life". / AFP PHOTO / Mladen ANTONOV        (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
How Alexey Navalny became the face of opposition in Putin's Russia (2021)
04:22 - Source: CNN
Moscow CNN  — 

Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny is being held in detention center-3 in Kolchugino in the Vladimir region east of Moscow, his lawyer Vadim Kobzev told CNN on Wednesday.

Kobzev says he visited Navalny where his client, currently in quarantine, will be held temporarily before being moved to a penal colony.

“Alexey Navalny is in a quarantine cell. There are two people with him in the cell. He is in complete isolation, does not receive letters, the FSIN-Letter system is disabled for the entire pre-trial detention center. There is nothing in the cell except the TV. There is no refrigerator or even a kettle,” Kobzev wrote on Twitter.

Navalny was jailed for violating the probation terms of a 2014 case in which he received a suspended sentence of three and a half years.

A Moscow court took into account the 11 months Navalny had already spent under house arrest as part of the decision and replaced the remainder of the suspended sentence with a prison term last month.

Russian authorities detained Navalny in January on his arrival from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from Novichok poisoning he blamed on the Russian government. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied any involvement.

On Saturday, Russian state media agency TASS reported Navalny would be moved to a notoriously brutal penal colony located in the Vladimir region.

Russia’s state-run news agency RIA-Novosti reported on Sunday – citing Moscow’s Public Monitoring Commission (ONK), which observes the treatment of prisoners – that Navalny had already been transferred to the colony.

Kobzev told CNN that Navalny was never in the colony reported by state media: “He has never been to penal colony 2 in Pokrov, it was false information.”

Navalny’s chief of staff, Leonid Volkov also tweeted on Wednesday that all the leaks and insiders have turned out to be a “complete lie.”

RIA-Novosti says Navalny will end up in a general regime colony and there are two of them in the Vladimir region. Both colonies told RIA Novosti that so far they have no information about whether they are expecting Navalny to be transferred to either of them.

Last week, Navalny’s lawyers said he had been moved from Matrosskaya Tishina detention center in Moscow but no details had been provided to Navalny’s team or his family on where he was being moved to.

Marina Litvinovich, from ONK, told CNN Friday that Navalny was due to be sent to a “general regime” penal colony, the most common type of prison in Russia.

Litvinovich said prisoners are not usually kept in cells but sleep in dormitories and are divided into groups. She added prisoners can work if they choose to do so.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest oligarch and now in exile in London, spent 10 years in a remote penal colony close to Russia’s borders with China and Mongolia – the Krasnokamensk penal colony. Khodorkovsky famously fell out with Putin by funding opposition groups and highlighting official corruption before being arrested.

After his release in 2013, Khodorkovsky told CNN in an interview that he had been stabbed in the face by a fellow inmate during his time in jail.

“When I was stabbed with a knife I was lucky – he tried to get to my eye but he got my nose,” he said. “As a result, the dentist who was there – someone who was also a plastic surgeon – carried out an operation on me, which means it was virtually not noticeable.”

Khodorkovsky also described the cramped conditions inside the colony. He said people slept in barracks, sometimes with 50 to 100 people in one room.

On his website, the former oil tycoon has written of the treatment he faced from prison authorities, who he says repeatedly accused him of “behavioural violations” in order to prevent his parole hearings from succeeding.

They also placed him in isolated cells as a punishment, Khodorkovsky claimed.

Russian authorities have categorized Navalny as a flight risk – a characterization the activist has ridiculed – so Litvinovich says he might be subjected to special supervision or searches.

Update: An earlier version of this story, first published on Friday and updated on Sunday, stated that Navalny had arrived at a penal colony east of Moscow. This was based on information from Moscow’s Public Monitoring Commission in addition to reporting from TASS, Russia’s state media agency. On Wednesday, Navalny’s lawyer Vadim Kobzev said that Navalny is being held temporarily in detention center-3 in Kolchugino, in the Vladimir region.