Alexei Navalny

Russia’s Navalny jokes about ‘naked party’ in first video link from new prison

Reuters

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Russia’s Navalny jokes about ‘naked party’ in first video link from new prison

FILE PHOTO: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is seen on a screen via video link from a penal colony in the Vladimir Region during a hearing at the Basmanny district court in Moscow, Russia April 26, 2023.

REUTERS/Yulia Morozova/File Photo

Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny is serving sentences totaling more than 30 years on a range of charges, from fraud to extremist activity, that he says are trumped up to silence him

Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny cracked jokes on Wednesday, January 10, in his first court appearance since being transferred to an Arctic penal colony, but a judge rejected his latest challenge against his treatment in prison.

Navalny appeared by video link from the “Penal Wolf” colony to which he was transferred last month from a prison in Melekhovo, east of Moscow, in an arduous three-week journey by road and rail.

He drew laughter from the judge when he asked on the call whether the Melekhovo colony had thrown a party to celebrate his departure, and whether it had included karaoke.

He later inquired if the prison department in Melekhovo had staged a naked party – a reference to a gathering of scantily clad celebrities in Moscow last month that caused a national scandal.

The exchanges showed Navalny’s ability to find humor even in his grim situation and to connect with the outside world despite being sent to one of Russia’s most remote and inhospitable regions.

His frequent court hearings have provided him with a platform to keep up his attacks on President Vladimir Putin and the war in Ukraine and to challenge and mock his incarcerators. He told judge Kirill Nikiforov, who has presided over many such sessions, that “a tear is flowing down my cheek” from the pleasure of seeing him again.

Members of the Federal Penitentiary Service walk near the IK-3 penal colony, where Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny serves his jail term, in the settlement of Kharp in the Yamal-Nenets Region, Russia December 29, 2023. REUTERS/Stringer

Navalny, 47, is serving sentences totalling more than 30 years on a range of charges, from fraud to extremist activity, that he says were trumped up to silence him. In 2020 he survived an attempt to poison him with a nerve agent.

The Kremlin says he is a convicted criminal and his treatment is a matter for the prison service. It has portrayed him and his supporters as extremists with links to the CIA intelligence agency who they say are seeking to destabilize Russia.

‘Long way, way’

At Wednesday’s hearing – a transcript of which was compiled by independent Russian news outlet Mediazona – Navalny unsuccessfully argued that authorities had acted illegally by sending him to an isolation cell in October for insulting a prison inspector.

Navalny said the inspector had confiscated his pen despite the fact he was entitled to have writing materials, and acknowledged he “went overboard” by calling the official a devil, a moron and a scarecrow.

But by the time of that incident, he argued, he should have already been moved from Melekhovo to another detention facility after his latest 19-year sentence was handed down in August.

The judge rejected Navalny’s complaint.

The Polar Wolf colony, some 1,900 km (1,200 miles) northeast of Moscow, is one of Russia’s harshest. Navalny joked in a social media post relayed through his lawyers this week that the temperature had “not been colder than -32°C yet” and he was finding his early morning exercise “invigorating”.

In Wednesday’s hearing he said the food was fine but he had yet to receive any letters or telegrams.

“I’m quite a long way away,” he said. – Rappler.com

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