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  4. 'Deeply concerned about...': US welcomes jailed Putin critic Alexei Navalny being located

'Deeply concerned about...': US welcomes jailed Putin critic Alexei Navalny being located

Navalny is serving a 19-year sentence on charges of extremism and had been imprisoned in the Vladimir region of central Russia. He was located at a prison colony above the Arctic Circle after nearly three weeks of no contact with him, according to his supporters.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Washington Updated on: December 26, 2023 16:20 IST
Jailed Putin critic Alexei Navalny was sentenced to 19
Image Source : REUTERS Jailed Putin critic Alexei Navalny was sentenced to 19 years on charges of extremism.

The United States has welcomed reports about incarcerated Russian leader and fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin, Alexei Navalny, being located near the Arctic Circle, and expressed concern about his well-being and called for his immediate release, according to the US Department of State. Navalny's sudden disappearance sparked concerns as his supporters lost contact for over two weeks.

Navalny was located at a prison colony above the Arctic Circle after nearly three weeks of no contact with him, his associates said. He is serving a 19-year sentence on charges of extremism and had been imprisoned in the Vladimir region of central Russia, about 230 kilometers (140 miles) east of Moscow, but his lawyers said they had not been able to reach him since December 6.

His spokesperson, Kira Yarmysh, said he was located in a prison colony in the town of Kharp, in the Yamalo-Nenets region about 1,900 kilometers (1,200 miles) northeast of Moscow. His condition was fine, given that he was expected to be transferred to a 'special regime', which is the harshest grade in Russia's prison system.

What did the US say?

"We welcome reports that Navalny has been located. However, we remain deeply concerned for Navalny's well-being and the conditions of his unjust detention. We have conveyed to the Russian government that they are responsible for what happens to Navalny in their custody," said a US State Department spokesperson on Monday.

The State Department has repeatedly called for Navalny's immediate release and accused Russia of repressing independent voices in the country. However, Russia denies carrying out such a crackdown.

Navalny's future

Navalny has been behind bars in Russia since January 2021, when he returned to Moscow after recuperating in Germany from nerve agent poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin. Before his arrest, he campaigned against official corruption and organized major anti-Kremlin protests. He has since received three prison terms and spent months in isolation in Penal Colony No. 6 for alleged minor infractions. He has rejected all charges against him as politically motivated.

Meanwhile, Yarmysh said that his transfer to the prison was connected with the campaign for the Russian presidential election in March. While Putin’s reelection is all but certain, given his overwhelming control over the country’s political scene and a widening crackdown on dissent, Navalny’s supporters and other critics hope to use the campaign to erode public support for the Kremlin leader and his military action in Ukraine.

His supporters see him as a future leader of Russia, while Russian authorities call him and his supporters extremists with links to the CIA intelligence agency who they say is seeking to destabilise Russia.

(with inputs from Reuters)

ALSO READ | Jailed Russian leader Navalny found near the Arctic Circle

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