Alexei Navalny, Russia’s famous opposition figure, is currently held in a strict penal colony in Melekhovo, in the Vladimir region (northeast of Moscow). Via his lawyers, Navalny said on social media that he is again in solitary confinement, for the third time in two weeks. He was sent to solitary confinement for the first time (for three days) on 15 August, for unfastening a button on his prison uniform. According to the Belarusian opposition channel NEXTA, Navalny was sent to solitary confinement for the second time (for five days) because ‘he did not hold his hand behind his back for “three seconds” when he was led down the corridor’ thereby violating escort rules. On 30 August, he was sent to solitary confinement for seven days. According to the official justification, Navalny is being punished because he ‘introduced himself incorrectly’.
Navalny stayed ‘politically active’ in prison. He called out the war in Ukraine multiple times, while he also blamed the current Russian regime for the sanctions. Beyond making political comments, he dedicates his time to trying to improve the working conditions of his fellow inmates by attempting to create a trade union for prisoners. The administration of the penal colony first denied his request saying that establishing prison trade unions was against the law. Navalny, on the other hand, maintained that under Russian law, any working individual over the age of 14 is allowed to form a union. In response, the penal colony’s management said they would review his request. Navalny’s trade union idea has already born fruit in his struggle to improve prison conditions. He managed to force the colony’s administration to replace backless stools with chairs in the prison’s tailor shop. work.
Navalny was sentenced to nine years in prison for contempt of court this March, on top of a former sentence of two and a half years. He has already served around 600 days of the two combined terms. Although he appealed against the fraud and contempt of court charges, his case was dismissed by the Moscow City Court in May this year. The dismissal of his appeal also meant that he was transferred to a strict regime colony from a standard regime colony. Strict regime colonies have tougher living conditions—the number of visits, packages, letters and the time available to spend in the open air are severely restricted. Beside the prison sentence, Navalny was also fined 1.2 million rubles.