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Alexei Navalny: Imprisoned Russian opposition leader “relieved” after 20 days of prison transfer



CNN

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny spoke out for the first time since his sudden disappearance several weeks ago, after his team said they finally found him Monday in a penal colony in Siberia.

Navalny, a staunch critic of the Kremlin, shared a message through his aides on social media on Tuesday, expressing “relief” after surviving what he described as a 20-day prison transfer that traveled thousands of kilometers.

“They brought me here Saturday night. And I was transported so carefully and on such a strange route (Vladimir – Moscow – Chelyabinsk – Yekaterinburg – Kirov – Vorkuta – Kharp) that I did not expect anyone to find me here before mid -January,” Navalny wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

“The 20 days of my transport have been quite exhausting, but I am still in good spirits, as befits a Santa Claus,” he said, adding that he was fine and “totally relieved” to have finally finished the trip.

According to CNN calculations, Navalny traveled more than 3,700 miles (about 6,000 kilometers) during the 20 days of his trip, an average of 185 miles per day.

Navalny had been imprisoned in a penal colony about 240 kilometers east of Moscow – until his lawyers revealed that on December 11 they had lost contact with him. Intensive searches followed – and on Monday they announced they had located Navalny in the IK-3 penal colony in the village of Kharp, about 65 km north of the Arctic Circle, in the Yamalo-Nenets autonomous region.

His disappearance immediately sparked concerns about his well-being and came just days after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced he would stand for election in March next year.

Putin has de facto ruled Russia since 2000, becoming more autocratic with each decade. Opposition figures like Navalny have regularly been imprisoned, silenced or fled into exile.

Navalny is Russia’s best-known opposition politician. Throughout Putin’s term, Navalny used his blog and social media to expose allegations of corruption in the Kremlin and Russian business circles, and organized anti-government street protests.

Even behind bars, his Instagram and Twitter accounts continued to attack Putin with messages transmitted through his team.

In his final messages, Navalny said he had met with his lawyer, thanked his supporters for their concern and was doing well.

His spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, told CNN on Tuesday that Navalny’s condition was no worse than before his transfer, although the process was “very difficult physically.”

Navalny’s messages published Tuesday suggest he remains in solitary confinement, although he said he had taken an open-air walk in a courtyard.

“I saw a convoy, not like in central Russia, but like in the movies – with machine guns, warm mittens and felt boots. And with the same beautiful, fluffy sheepdogs,” he wrote on X. “Thank you all again for your support. And happy holidays! »

Navalny was sentenced to 19 years in prison in August after being convicted of creating an extremist community, financing extremist activities and numerous other crimes. He was already serving an 11-and-a-half-year sentence in a maximum security facility for fraud and other charges that he denies.

Navalny’s supporters say his arrest and incarceration is a politically motivated attempt to stifle his criticism of Putin.

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