Alexei Navalny, the Kremlin critic who is serving a two-and-year-half jail term, on Monday said he was locked up in a “real concentration camp”, which came as the first confirmation of widespread reports that the Russian opposition leader would be spending his sentence at Russia’s one of the most notorious facilities of over 600 work colonies.
Taking to Instagram, Navalny posted a photo of himself with a close-cropped haircut and wrote, “I have to admit that the Russian prison system was able to surprise me. I had no idea that it was possible to arrange a real concentration camp 100 km from Moscow.”
Also Read | Russian police detain 200 attendees of Moscow forum, including opposition leaders
Navalny was detained at a Moscow airport on his return from Germany and jailed in mid-January. He was being treated for near-fatal poisoning with the Soviet-era nerve toxin Novichok in Germany.
The Kremlin critic said that he was Penal Colony No 2 in Pokrov town in the Vladimir region northeast of Moscow with a “freshly shaven head”. Navalny’s lawyer Olga Mikhailova also confirmed that he is at the colony as she visited him there, reported Russian news agencies.
“I think someone upstairs read Orwell’s 1984 and said: ‘Yeah, cool. Let’s do this. Education through dehumanisation’, he said, as he wrote there are “video cameras are everywhere, everyone is watched and at the slightest violation they make a report.”
Navalny said that he had not yet seen any hints of violence at the colony, but because of the “tense posture of the convicts”, he can “easily believe” previous reports of brutality.
Earlier this month, activist Konstantin Kotov, who spent nearly two years at the colony for violating protest rules, described to AFP an environment in which inmates are not treated “like people”.
In February, Europe’s rights court told Moscow to release the opposition politician out of concern for his life, a call Russia swiftly rejected.
In his Instagram post, Navalny said that at night he was woken up “every hour” by a man who snaps a photo of him and announces that the convict who is “prone to escape” is still in his cell.
Navalny’s arrest set off a wave of protests across Russia and a brutal police crackdown. The United States and the European Union have called for his release.
In a coordinated action earlier this month, Washington and Brussels imposed sanctions on senior Russian officials, as US intelligence concluded that Moscow orchestrated the poisoning attack on Navalny.
A number of Navalny’s close allies remain under house arrest, charged with violating Moscow’s ban on mass events due to the coronavirus pandemic by calling for protests in his support.
After police detained some 11,500 protesters at nationwide rallies held in late January and early February, Navalny’s right-hand man Leonid Volkov called for the opposition to regroup.
Volkov, who is based in Lithuania, told AFP last week that the team would soon announce new protests for the spring and summer ahead of key parliamentary elections in the fall.