‘Our friendly concentration camp’ Alexey Navalny confirms that he’s in custody at a notorious penitentiary in Pokrov
On Monday, Alexey Navalny confirmed that he is in custody at Penal Colony No. 2 in the town of Pokrov, northeast of Moscow. His whereabouts were unknown over the weekend after the news broke on Friday that he had been transferred out of a detention center in the nearby town of Kolchugino. Navalny says he’s “doing well overall,” though he described the notorious penitentiary as a “friendly concentration camp.” According to his lawyers, with whom Navalny met on Monday, the opposition politician is set to remain in a quarantine unit for the next two weeks, after which he will be integrated with the prison’s general population.
Alexey Navalny confirmed that he had been moved to Pokrov’s Penal Colony No.2 in social media posts made on his behalf during the day on Monday. Describing the conditions of his detention, Navalny wrote, “I haven’t yet seen any violence or even a hint of it, although by the tense posture of the convicts, standing at attention and afraid to turn their heads, I easily believe the numerous stories that here, in IK-2 Pokrov, people were beaten half to death with wooden hammers just recently.” The opposition politician underscored that the penitentiary operates based on the “literal fulfilment of endless rules.” In his words, the Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) has “set up a real concentration camp 100 kilometers [62 miles] from Moscow.” “That’s what I call my new home ‘our friendly concentration camp’,” Navalny wrote, adding that he’s “doing well overall.”
Navalny’s lawyers met with him in the penitentiary on Monday. According to them, the opposition politician remains “upbeat and cheerful.” Lawyer Olga Mikhailova said that Navalny is currently in quarantine for new arrivals along with five other prisoners. As lawyer Vadim Kobzev explained, Navalny will be moved out of quarantine and in with the prison’s general population in two weeks. Mikhailova noted that the lawyers had to wait five hours before they were allowed to enter the penitentiary, and that they were only able to speak to Navalny through a glass window. The prison staff were polite when speaking to Navalny, and only did so under video surveillance. However, because Navalny was deemed “liable to escape” while in pre-trial detention, he’s subject to constant checks. “He’s checked [on] and recorded in his cell every two hours during the day and every hour at night,” Mikhailova said.
Navalny’s lawyers, family members, and associates had no information about his whereabouts for three days. The opposition politician was moved from a pre-trial detention center in the city of Kolchugino (also in the Vladimir region) on Friday, March 12 — he was transferred there from Moscow’s Matrosskaya Tishina remand prison after a Russian court converted his probation in the Yves Rocher case to real time in prison back in February. Citing unnamed sources in law enforcement, the Russian state news agency TASS reported that Navalny had been transferred to Penal Colony No. 2 in Pokrov, but the prison administration would neither confirm nor deny these reports for his lawyers. The FSIN never issued an official comment on Navalny’s whereabouts (they still had yet to do so at the time of this writing). Asked about Navalny’s whereabouts on Monday morning, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists, “We don’t have information about the whereabouts of convicts in the Russian Federation.”
The fact that Navalny had been moved to Penal Colony No. 2 was indirectly confirmed earlier in the day on Monday, when his associates released a copy of a letter from Moscow’s 235th Garrison Military Court, asking the head of the penitentiary in Pokrov to ensure Navalny’s participation via video link in a court hearing scheduled for Tuesday, March 16. The hearing will consider a complaint filed by Navalny’s legal representatives over official inaction with regards to conducting an investigation into his August 2020 poisoning. That said, the court’s letter is dated March 1 (at that time, Navalny was still in custody in the Kolchugino detention center).
Also on Monday, journalists from Open Media reported that they were able to send a money transfer for 1,312 rubles (about $18) to Navalny’s personal account in Penal Colony No. 2 — this can only be done if the convict receiving the transfer is in fact in custody at that particular institution. A similar experiment failed at the beginning of March: “That’s because he wasn’t here. And now [he is], everything’s fine,” the penitentiary’s accounting department told journalists.
In late February – early March, Navalny’s whereabouts within the prison system were unknown for six days. On February 25, reports emerged that the politician had been moved from the Matrosskaya Tishina remand prison in Moscow. The city’s Public Oversight Commission (ONK) reported that Navalny had been transferred to a penal colony, but his lawyers were unable to confirm this information. On February 27, several media outlets cited anonymous sources claiming that Navalny had been sent to Pokrov’s Penal Colony No. 2. But on March 3, a post on Navalny’s Instagram account confirmed that he was in a detention center in Kolchugino.
IK-2 is a notoriously harsh penal colony, where the administration exercises total control over the lives of the inmates. In early March, Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (the FBK, which is considered a “foreign agent” in Russia) released a video about the penitentiary, featuring reports about prison staff beating inmates, including immediately upon arrival. Activist Konstantin Kotov, who served a sentence at Penal Colony No. 2, said that prisoners who defend their rights “can be reprimanded for anything, even an unbuttoned button,” which can, in turn, affect their eligibility for parole. Kotov’s lawyer Maria Eysmont said that in Penal Colony No. 2, “everything is aimed at making people feel completely dependent on the administration.”
Translation by Eilish Hart