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Navalny says placed in solitary confinement

Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said Monday he had been placed in a punishment cell following his efforts to create a labour union in jail.

(FILES) This handout file photograph handout provided by the Babushkinsky district court on February 12, 2021, shows Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, charged with defaming a World War II veteran, standing inside a glass cell during a court hearing in Moscow. – Russian prison officials are threatening to start force-feeding jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, his team said on April 12, 2021, after he lost eight kilograms (18 pounds) since starting a hunger strike. (Photo by Handout / Moscow’s Babushkinsky district court press service / AFP) / 

Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said Monday he had been placed in a punishment cell following his efforts to create a labour union in jail.

Navalny is serving a nine-year prison sentence in a strict-regime penal colony near the Russian town of Vladimir on embezzlement charges that he and his allies say are politically motivated.

“Greetings from solitary confinement,” Navalny wrote on his social media, saying that officially he was placed in an isolation cell for breaking the dress code and unbuttoning the top button of his prison robe.

He said he will remain in confinement for three days, but prison authorities warned that it could “become my permanent residence” unless “I reconsider my attitude”.

Navalny described his cell as a tiny “concrete kennel” where it is “very hot and there’s almost no air”.

“There’s only a mug and a book in my cell. I only get a spoon and a plate at mealtimes,” he said.

An iron bunk is lowered from outside using a lever in the evening and put away early in the morning when they take away your mattress and pillow, he said.

“No visits, no letters, no parcels. This is the only place in the prison where even smoking is prohibited,” he added.

Last week, Navalny announced that he created a one-man labour union in the penal colony where he works by sewing.

While the labour union achieved a first victory — the stools used by inmates working at sewing machines were replaced with chairs — Navalny said he received warnings from the prison administration.

Navalny had been serving two-and-a-half years for violating parole on old fraud charges but in March his jail time was extended to nine years after he was found guilty of embezzling donations to his political organisations and contempt of court.

Navalny, 46, rose to prominence as an anti-corruption blogger and, before his imprisonment, mobilised anti-government protests across Russia.

In 2020, he barely survived a poisoning attack with Novichok, a Soviet-designed military-grade nerve agent. Navalny has accused Russian authorities, but the Kremlin has denied any involvement.

He was arrested last year on his return from treatment in Germany, sparking widespread condemnation abroad and sanctions from Western capitals.

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