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Navalny attends court hearing for first time since transfer to Polar Wolf penal colony in Russia’s Far North

Alexei Navalny speaks via video link from the Polar Wolf penal colony. Photo: Alexandra Astakhova / Mediazona

On January 10, incarcerated opposition politician Alexei Navalny took part in a court hearing for the first time since he was transferred to IK-3, a “special regime” penal colony in Kharp in the Yamalo-Nenets Region about 1,900 km (1200 miles) northeast of Moscow.

As reported by independent outlet Mediazona, Navalny was present, via video link, at a session of the Kovrov City Court, which reviewed Navalny's lawsuit against IK-6, a penal colony in Vladimir Region’s Melekhovo where he was previously held.

“Your honor, a tear, a tear runs down my cheek — [I’m] so glad to see you all. My beloved Kovrov court, my beloved defendants, [my] dear defenders and dear secretary — I’m very happy to see you,” was how Navalny greeted Judge Kirill Nikiforov and others present at the hearing.

The court eventually rejected Navalny's lawsuit against IK-6. The politician tried to challenge his placement in the punishment cell, where he was sent for 12 days after he called the inspector who took away his pen a “devil” [“chert”, literally meaning “devil,” is a slang term in Russian that is often used as a mild curse word or exclamation — translator’s note].

On December 6, 2023, Navalny's associates reported that contact with him had been lost: for the first time, the politician, who was held in IK-6 , was not allowed a lawyer. On the next day, Navalny was absent from a court hearing, and further sessions were cancelled. On December 15, Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) reported that Navalny had been transferred out of the prison in Vladimir. Ten days later, Navalny was confirmed to have arrived at IK-3 in Kharp, a penal colony north of the Arctic Circle.

Founded in 1961, IK-3 penal colony (also known as “Polar Wolf”) was built on the site of the former 501st Gulag. A former inmate described the location of the prison as the “edge of all life.”

Navalny, 47, founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation (ACF), has been behind bars since early 2021. In August last year, a court extended his sentence to 19 years on extremism charges.

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