News of the Day: 28 February 2021

RFE/RL: Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny will reportedly serve his prison sentence near Moscow, according to Russian media sources, although the Kremlin critic’s allies say they are still unsure of his location. The TASS news agency reported on February 27 that Navalny was taken to the Vladimir region, where he will be imprisoned in a penal colony in the city of Pokrov, 100 kilometers east of Moscow. TASS, citing an anonymous source, said Navalny was taken to the Vladimir region on February 26 and will first undergo quarantine. The source did not say whether he was already in the penal colony. Earlier, the news site Yarnovosti reported Navalny was in a pretrial detention center in Kolchugino, Vladimir region, and would be transferred to Penal Colony No. 2 in Pokrov. The Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) on February 26 confirmed Navalny was moved to a prison from a Moscow detention center where had been held since mid-January. But the FSIN did not specify where the anti-corruption crusader was being taken to begin serving a 2 1/2-year sentence, leaving family and allies uncertain over his whereabouts, health, and safety.

The Moscow Times: Russian officials said Sunday that Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny is in a prison colony in Vladimir region, three hours outside Moscow, where he will spend the next two and a half years.  Four former inmates of penal colony IK-2 — which Russian state media have identified as the institution where the opposition leader will do his time — told The Moscow Times that it is one of Russia’s toughest prisons. “This is, by any measure, an extremely strict prison. They try to control your every step, your every thought,” said Konstantin Kotov, who spent two years in IK-2 after being arrested during Moscow’s summer 2019 election protests and convicted under a controversial law criminalizing “repeated” participation in unauthorized rallies.

RFE/RL: When the team of Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny attempted to open a representative office in the capital of the North Caucasus republic of Daghestan earlier this month, events unfolded quickly. News of the plan broke in local media on February 19. Late in the evening of the very next day, a group of unknown assailants accosted Navalny’s regional coordinator, Ruslan Ablyakimov, at a local scenic overlook and beat him savagely. “Then they lifted me up and asked me: ‘What are you doing here? Why did you come from Moscow?'” Ablyakimov told RFE/RL’s North Caucasus Service. “I didn’t answer, so they continued beating me. They wanted to throw me down from the overlook but the leader stopped them.” On February 21, Navalny’s team announced that the plan to open an office in Daghestan had been put on hold. The landlord who had previously agreed to rent space for the project suddenly backed out. Ablyakimov himself fled the republic for another, undisclosed location in the country, telling the Caucasus Knot website that he had been “followed 24 hours a day.”

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