Jailed Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny ‘is moved to a penal colony from Moscow jail to serve his two-year prison term’
- Alexei Navalny ‘has been moved to undisclosed detention centre out of Moscow’
- His lawyers claim Putin critic is likely being sent to a penal colony in the west
- Navalny was jailed over alleged parole violations after he was poisoned
- Opposition figured was arrested after returning from Germany for treatment
- US and EU officials are now preparing sanctions on Russia over Navalny jailing
Jailed Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny has been moved to an undisclosed detention centre outside Moscow that may be a prison camp, his lawyer and a member of a rights organisation said today.
Navalny, a prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin, was jailed this month over alleged parole violations related to an embezzlement case he said was trumped up for political reasons, something the authorities deny.
Though his lawyers did not immediately say what prison he was sent to, Russian news reports indicated Navalny, 44, would likely be sent to a facility in western Russia from his maximum-security jail in Moscow.
Eva Merkacheva, a member of Moscow’s public monitoring committee for human rights, said Navalny was sent to a standard penal colony, the location of which should be disclosed when he arrived there.
His lawyers have said he is due to spend two-and-a-half years behind bars, with Vadim Kobzev claiming that moving Navalny was against the law and adding that his relatives had not been informed of his whereabouts.
Navalny was arrested last month upon returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin.
His detention has fuelled political tensions between Moscow and Western governments, which are preparing additional sanctions against Russian officials.
Alexei Navalny has been moved to an undisclosed detention centre outside Moscow that may be a prison camp, his lawyer and a member of a rights organisation said today
Russian news reports indicated Putin critic Navalny would likely be sent to a facility in western Russia from his maximum-security jail in Moscow. Vadim Kobzev claimed that moving Navalny was against the law and adding that his relatives had not been informed of his whereabouts
New Cold War: Western nations prepare to slap Russian officials with additional sanctions over Navalny jailing
President Biden prepares to announce sanctions on Russia over poisoning and jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny
The Biden administration is preparing to issue sanctions on Russia over the jailing of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny .
According to Politico , the US is expected to coordinate with European allies a sanctions rollout against Russia in the coming weeks.
Sources told the news outlet that US sanctions on Russia would be the Biden administration’s first major step in holding the country accountable for human rights abuses, which President Joe Biden lists as a priority for his foreign policy agenda.
The Biden administration is preparing to issue sanctions on Russia over the jailing of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny
No immediate details of the response were revealed, but one source claimed that the US is ‘considering available policy options’.
‘We won’t stand by idly in the face of these human rights abuses,’ the official said.
Daniel Fried, who served as assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs at the State Department, told Politico: ‘I don’t think we can stop [Russian President] Putin from sending Navalny to a penal colony. But by acting quickly now, at least it’s in Putin’s calculation that the US is willing to act.’
The Biden administration is also not starting from scratch as it relates to sanctioning Russia. The administration received a comprehensive sanctions package from the previous administration.
Sources told the news site that the package proposed three types of sanctions: Magnitsky Act sanctions on the individuals who detained Navalny; sanctions under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991 (CBW Act); and sanctions under Executive Order 13382.
EU imposes sanctions on Kremlin officials in response to crackdown on Putin critic Alexei Navalny
European Union foreign ministers have agreed to impose sanctions on four senior Russian officials close to President Vladimir Putin in response to the jailing of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny .
Russia ‘s foreign ministry on Monday blasted the move amid the crackdown on Kremlin critic Navalny and his supporters.
EU foreign ministers earlier Monday agreed to impose sanctions on four senior Russian officials, diplomats told AFP, after Navalny’s associates urged the ministers to go after oligarchs accused of funding President Vladimir Putin’s rule.
The imprisoning of Putin’s best-known opponent sparked nationwide protests that saw thousands of demonstrators detained
The diplomats did not name the targeted individuals nor give details about them.
The sanctions are the first under the EU’s new system to punish human rights violators, and will reportedly ban the officials from reentering the bloc.
‘We reached a political agreement to impose restrictive measures against those responsible for (Navalny’s) arrest and sentencing and persecution,’ EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said after chairing the meeting in Brussels.
Leonid Volkov, a senior associate of Navalny, welcomed the news, saying: ‘Even if it’s too little… it’s the first time personal sanctions are applied with regard to human rights violations, so it opens the way for further negotiation on this with Europe.’
In a statement, Russia’s foreign ministry called the new sanctions ‘disappointing’ and said they were prepared under a ‘far-fetched pretext’.
‘In obedience to bloc school of thought and anti-Russian stereotypes, Brussels is again instinctively pushing the broken sanctions ‘button,” it said.
Russian authorities have rejected the accusation and accused Navalny of cooperating with Western intelligence agencies – claims he has ridiculed.
Earlier this month, Navalny was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for violating the terms of his probation while convalescing in Germany.
The sentence stems from a 2014 embezzlement conviction that Navalny has rejected as fabricated – and which the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled to be unlawful.
Navalny’s arrest fuelled a wave of protests that drew tens of thousands to the streets across Russia. Authorities have detained about 11,000 people, many of whom were fined or given jail terms ranging from seven to 15 days.
Russian officials have dismissed demands from the US and the EU to free Navalny and stop the crackdown on his supporters.
Moscow also rejected the ECHR ruling that, citing risks to Navalny’s life in custody, ordered the Russian government to release him.
The Russian government has rebuffed the court’s demand as unlawful and ‘inadmissible’ meddling in Russia’s home affairs.
Earlier this week, EU foreign ministers agreed to impose new sanctions against Russian officials linked to Navalny’s jailing.
Since Navalny’s arrest, Russian officials and state news media have aggressively tried to discredit him, a change from the previous tactic of largely ignoring him.
Some of the criticism has emphasised anti-migrant views expressed years ago as he was rising to prominence.
Amnesty International this week stripped Navalny of his designation as a ‘prisoner of conscience’ because of those views.
‘Navalny had, in the past, made comments which may have amounted to advocacy of hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, violence or hostility,’ the organization said in a statement Thursday.
The statement denied the move was in response to external pressure, but news reports have suggested Amnesty International was targeted in a coordinated campaign to discredit him.
‘These were not independently acting activists … these were people who would like to defame Alexei as the most prominent opponent of Mr. Putin,’ Vladimir Ashurkov, executive director of Navalny’s anti-corruption organization, said in a conference call on Thursday.
Amnesty International said rescinding the prisoner-of-conscience designation does not change its demand for Navalny to be freed.
‘There should be no confusion: nothing Navalny has said in the past justifies his current detention, which is purely politically motivated,’ it said,
‘Navalny has been arbitrarily detained for exercising his right to freedom of expression, and for this reason we continue to campaign for his immediate release.’
It comes after Amnesty International chiefs admitted undermining Navalny by stripping him of his ‘prisoner of conscience’ status during a prank call.
Pro-Kremlin jokers Vovan and Lexus pretended to be Mr Navalny’s campaigns chief Leonid Volkov while remonstrating with Amnesty’s Acting Secretary General of Julie Verhaar.
Mr Navalny was yesterday dispossessed of the special title conferred by Amnesty because of anti-migrant statements he made more than a decade ago.
The human rights group defended its decision, saying it had been ‘bombarded’ with complaints and couldn’t ignore Mr Navalny’s ‘hate speech’ – which had been seized upon by Kremlin propagandists.
In yesterday’s Zoom call with ‘Volkov’, Amnesty’s top brass expressed their regret at stripping Mr Navalny of his status and pleaded with the campaigns chief to help them steer the media narrative back onto Mr Navalny’s plight and away from his Amnesty status.
Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty’s head of research for Eastern Europe, unwittingly told the pranksters: ‘When you were angry you were entirely justified and frankly it’s done damage to us as well because frankly in Russia there is no case that’s more important and more regretful to undermine – and that’s what happened, unintentionally.
‘So if we can move forward that’s great. We would like to move the media attention away from Amnesty’s internal decisions and the language it uses and how it comes to them because this will do more damage. And frankly these are difficult processes for us to deal with.
‘Let’s move to the message: ‘Navalny, get him out (of prison).’
‘And then if we can be publicly seen to be on the same side, I think this is the best we can do for Alexei.’
Marie Struthers, the regional director for Easter Europe, added that Amnesty ‘had done more harm than good.’
The Amnesty chiefs told the pranksters they were keen to start a ‘short, clear and powerful’ social media campaign to promote Mr Navalny’s cause to demand his release and to ‘steer the conversation away from ‘prisoner of conscience.”
Today, the real Leonid Volkov expressed his disbelief and disappointment at Amnesty, having watched the prank call.
‘Frankly, – and I hate to say it – this Zoom call alone is, in my opinion, enough to qualify the @amnesty leadership as unfit. In 2021, you can’t run a charity with over 300M euro annual budget (!) and to allow yourself to be tricked and humiliated in such way,’ he tweeted.
It came after Ms Verhaar, the head of Amnesty, tweeted Mr Volkov on Wednesday to thank him for their conversation. She has since taken down the tweet.
Mr Volkov wrote: ‘Hmm, General Secretary of Amnesty thanks me for the constructive, direct conversation. But only I do not know her, and have never spoken to her; I wouldn’t be surprised if she spoke to ‘prankster Vovan’; I would not be surprised if they make decisions on the basis of such messages.’
Earlier, in the Zoom call, Ms Verhaar had told the pranksters: ‘We’ve had a discussion about the fallout that happened yesterday and we’re really looking to have this call to see how we can move forward because it was really none of our intention to have this happen.
Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny stands inside a defendant dock during a court hearing in Moscow, Russia, February 20, 2021
Leonid Volkov expressed his disbelief and disappointment at Amnesty
Amnesty’s Acting Secretary General of Julie Verhaar tweeted Mr Volkov on Wednesday to thank him for their conversation. She has since removed the tweet
Alexei Navalny’s life is in danger and he must be released from prison immediately, European Court of Human Rights demands
Europe’s top human rights court has ordered Russia to release jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny after ruling that his life is at risk.
The ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that was posted on Navalny’s website on Wednesday demands that Russia set him free immediately and warns that failing to do so would mark a breach of the European human rights convention.
Navalny, 44, an anti-corruption investigator and President Vladimir Putin ‘s most prominent critic, was arrested last month upon returning from Germany , where he spent five months recovering from a nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin.
Russian authorities have rejected the accusation.
Earlier this month, a Moscow court sentenced Navalny to two years and eight months in prison for violating terms of his probation while recuperating in Germany. The sentence stems from a 2014 embezzlement conviction that Navalny has rejected as fabricated and the European court has ruled to be unlawful.
In its Tuesday’s ruling, the ECHR pointed to Rule 39 of its regulations and obliged the Russian government to release Navalny, citing ‘the nature and extent of risk to the applicant’s life.’
‘This measure shall apply with immediate effect,’ the Strasbourg-based court said in a statement.
‘We really want Mr Navalny, his case and his unjust detention to be at the forefront of what we’re doing.
‘And we have some ideas of how we can do that, but we really want to use this opportunity to hear where you are and how we can work together.’
The conversation boiled over into absurdity towards the end when the prankster, pretending to be Mr Volkov, apologised for previous critical tweets directed at Amnesty.
‘Even my Twitter I am sorry about that, I have wrote that you have ate a lot of sh*t and made your decision, but it’s true,’ the prankster told the Amnesty officials.
But they did not seem to realise they were being fooled as they all smiled and laughed awkwardly while ‘Volkov’ apologised for his ‘radical Twitter style.’
The pranksters also asked about whether Mr Navalny’s special status could be reinstated, but the Amnesty officials said this would only make matters worse.
Mr Krivosheev said: ‘I don’t think it would do anyone any good for anyone for Amnesty to flip once again and say no, no, we changed our mind, he is a prisoner of conscience. What I think can help is finding the right way forward.
‘And for this reason we want him out as soon as possible and use every possible venue to put as much pressure on the Russian government to get him out.
‘And if we could agree on that and not be seen as in disagreement I think that would be very important.
‘So rather than looking for a way in which a decision could be changed, I am suggesting that we find the best way to project our message, which is: free Navalny now.’
It comes after Mr Navalny’s supporters yesterday reacted furiously to Amnesty’s decision, accusing the organisation of falling into a Kremlin trap by being drawn towards Mr Navalny’s nationalist comments from the mid-2000s – for which he has previously apologised.
Critics included Alexander Golovach, a lawyer for Mr Navalny’s FBK anti-corruption group, who said he was renouncing the ‘prisoner of conscience’ status that Amnesty gave him in 2018.
Ivan Zhdanov, a Navalny ally, said: ‘The procedure for assigning and revoking Amnesty International status has proven extremely shameful.’
Navalny, who has carved out a following campaigning against official corruption, has been criticised for past nationalist statements against illegal immigration and for attending an annual nationalist march several years ago.
In a 2007 video, he called for the deportation of migrants to prevent the rise of far-right violence. ‘We have a right to be (ethnic) Russians in Russia. And we’ll defend that right,’ he said in the video.
Navalny could not be reached for comment as he was in jail. His allies protested the move by Amnesty on Twitter.
MailOnline has contacted Amnesty for comment but they were unable to provide a statement specifically about the prank video.
Pranksters Vladimir Kuznetsov (Vovan) and Alexey Stolyarov (Lexus) have previously targeted Kremlin foes, though Russian officials deny any links to the comedians
The real Leonid Volkov: Navalny’s chief of staff speaks at a news conference in Berlin in August after the opposition leader was poisoned by Novichok
In a general statement about Mr Navalny, Ms Vehaar said: ”The speculation around Amnesty International’s use of the term ‘prisoner of conscience’ is detracting attention from our core demand that Aleksei Navalny be freed immediately.
‘This distraction only serves the Russian authorities, who have jailed Navalny on politically motivated charges, simply because he dared to criticise them.
‘The term ‘prisoner of conscience’ is a specific description based on a range of internal criteria established by Amnesty. There should be no confusion: nothing Navalny has said in the past justifies his current detention, which is purely politically motivated.
‘Navalny has been arbitrarily detained for exercising his right to freedom of expression, and for this reason we continue to campaign for his immediate release.
‘We note that some of Aleksei Navalny’s past comments have been actively used by his opponents to discredit him.
‘Amnesty International has itself been the target of Russian government smear campaigns, as a result of our consistent condemnation of the Kremlin’s appalling human rights record.
‘We campaign for the release of unjustly detained people on a daily basis, and we will continue to do so for Aleksei Navalny.
‘Navalny’s detention for his peaceful opposition and exposure of corruption is unlawful, and we will continue to campaign ceaselessly for his release and his right to freedom of expression.’
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