MOSCOW (AP) — Imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny said in a social media post published Wednesday that prison authorities have placed him in a one-person cell for six months, a move his lawyer described as part of authorities' efforts to damage Navalny's health.
Navalny, 46, said on Instagram that he had been denied the opportunity to visit with his family for the past eight months. The move to solitary confinement means he will not see his wife and children for another half a year, he said.
“Even maniacs and serial killers serving life sentences have the right for meetings, but I do not,” he said. “When such thing happens to you, you understand even more acutely how important it is to fight this unscrupulous government, how important it is to do at least something to free Russia from the yoke of these scoundrels from Russia and dispel the dope with which they have enveloped the heads of millions.”
Navalny, who exposed official corruption and organized massive anti-Kremlin protests, is serving a nine-year fraud sentence in a maximum-security prison 250 kilometers (150 miles) east of Moscow.
He was arrested in January 2021 upon returning from Germany, where he recuperated from nerve-agent poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin. He was given a 2 1/2-year sentence for a parole violation and last year was sentenced to nine years for fraud and contempt of court.
Navalny rejects the charges as a political vendettas and an attempt by Russian authorities to keep him behind bars and out of politics for as long as possible. His supporters say his prosecution was intended to silence Russian President Vladimir Putin's most prominent foe.
His lawyer, Vadim Kobzev, alleged that prison authorities deliberately placed an ill inmate in the same cell as Navalny to infect him with a flu and then treated him with antibiotics, resulting in stomach problems and weight loss.
Kobzev described the decision to put Navalny in solitary confinement for six months as part of an “explicit strategy to destroy Navalny's health using all means,” adding that prison authorities could only have made the move with Kremlin approval.
In recent months, Navalny was put in a tiny one-man cell, also called a “punishment cell," for purported disciplinary violations such as his alleged failure to properly button his prison robe or to wash his face at a specified time. Navalny's supporters have accused prison authorities of failing to provide him with proper medical assistance, using blindingly bright light in his cell and placing him next to a mentally unstable person.
Last week, his supporters erected a replica of Navalny's “punishment cell” outside the Russian Embassy in Berlin to raise awareness of his fate.