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Ukrainian Iryna Navalna, taken prisoner because of her surname, tortured during interrogations, reports human rights activist Olga Romanova

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Iryna Navalna, a Ukrainian citizen detained in Mariupol by the Russian army in late September, is being tortured under interrogation, according to a report by human rights activist Olga Romanova citing Natalia Fomicheva, a former prisoner who was held in captivity with Navalna.

Notably, Navalna’s surname matches that of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny, who is currently serving a lengthy prison term in the IK-6 maximum security prison in Melekhovo in Russia’s Vladimir region.

After her arrest, Navalna was taken to a pre-trial detention center in Donetsk, where she was held for the first month of her captivity. She was initially placed in a cell with regular prisoners, but was transferred to a cell for female Ukrainian soldiers two weeks later. According to Romanova, Navalna was beaten until black bruises developed on her skin. She told Fomicheva that she was beaten during interrogations, and tortured at the hands of the wardens.

Fomicheva said that there were 21 women held in the cells instead of the required 10. The detainees are not even allowed to sit on the floor – they are taken out of the cell and beaten in the corridor if they “violate” that condition. The cells are cold, damp, the windows are broken, and the prisoners are given cold water only once every three days. Navalna receives only about a third of the food she receives, and the items that are “nutritious and healthy” are taken away by the guards.

Navalna also has no access to warm clothes and was forced to record a video statement, Fomicheva recalled. Fomicheva herself returned from Russian captivity on December 31.

Navalna, 24, was detained on the day of the “referendum” that Russia used to annex Ukraine’s occupied territories. She was charged for “preparing to commit a crime” and “comitting a terrorist act”. Russia claims that Navalna was planning to carry out a terrorist attack near the Mariupol Primorsky district administration building in order to disrupt the “referendum”.

According to Romanova, Navalna was nowhere near the building. That fact did little to deter the investigation: the Russian authorities are insisting that Navalna was planning the attack remotely. Several other facts were cited as evidence of her guilt: Navalna's father, who serves in Russia's National Guard, her confession, given under torture, as well as her last name.

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