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Russia: Kremlin has "no information" about missing Putin critic Alexei Navalny

Navalny, who rose to prominence by lampooning President Vladimir Putin's "elite" and alleging "extensive corruption" was sentenced in August to an additional 19 years in prison

Russia: Kremlin has no information about missing Putin critic Alexei Navalny

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny (Photo: Reuters)

MOSCOW: The Kremlin has said that it has "no information" about jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who reportedly has been missing from prison since December 6, Al Jazeera reported. Navalny's lawyers have not been able to see him since December 6.

The prison authorities moved him from the penal colony, where he was serving his sentence for multiple charges, including extremism, but have not said where he was transferred to.

Prison officials told a court on Friday (local time) that Navalny had left the IK-6 facility in the town of Melekhovo in the Vladimir region, about 230 km (140 miles) east of Moscow, Al Jazeera reported, citing Vyacheslav Gimadi, the head of the legal department at Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation.

On being asked if the Kremlin had any information about Navalny, spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said: "No. I repeat again: we do not have the capacity, or right, or desire to track the fates of those prisoners who are serving sentences by order of a court."

Navalny, who rose to prominence by lampooning President Vladimir Putin's "elite" and alleging "extensive corruption" was sentenced in August to an additional 19 years in prison on top of the 11 and a half years he was already serving, Al Jazeera reported.

"We don't know [where he is] for the 10th day," Navalny's lawyer posted on X. The allies of the Putin critic had been preparing for his expected transfer to a "special regime" high-security facility, the harshest grade in Russia's prison system, before he was moved. "Where he was taken is not known," Navalny's spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, posted on X, saying he was moved on December 11.

"Let me remind you that the lawyers have not seen Alexei since December 6."

Earlier, Navalny's team had alleged that the jailed Russian leader suffered a serious health incident. Meanwhile, another Navalny ally, Maria Pevchikh, has urged the United Nations Human Rights Committee to help them locate the jailed leader.

"What is happening with Alexei is, in fact, an enforced disappearance and a flagrant violation of his fundamental rights. Answers must be given," she said on Thursday.

Several rights groups have also weighed in on Moscow's criticism. Amnesty International acknowledged "the possibility that he may be in transit to another prison colony."

"As if attempted poisoning, imprisonment and inhumane conditions of detention were not enough, Alexei Navalny may now have been subjected to an enforced disappearance," it added.

The dissident was taken from Russia to Germany in 2020 after he was poisoned with Novichok, a Soviet-era nerve agent. Navalny had to be airlifted from the Siberian city of Omsk and arrived comatose at a hospital in Berlin, CNN reported.

Navalny was immediately incarcerated upon his return to Russia in January 2021 on charges of violating the terms of his probation related to a fraud case brought against him in 2013, which he also dismissed as politically motivated. He has also campaigned from prison against Russia's war against Ukraine and has even attempted to mobilise public opposition to the war.

According to CNN, Navalny posed one of the most serious threats to Putin's legitimacy during his rule, which has spanned more than two decades. When Navalny was sentenced to 19 years in a maximum-security penal colony in August, he said, "the number of years does not matter."

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