Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny announced on Wednesday that he had been transferred to a maximum-security prison known as a “conveyor belt for torture.”
Navalny, the staunchest opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, wrote on his Telegram channel that he was transferred to the IK-6 prison in the village of Melekhovo in the Vladimir region, about 250 kilometers east of Moscow.
“My space travel continues,” a seemingly optimistic Navalny joked on Wednesday. “I went from ship to ship. In other words, I salute you all from a strict regime zone.”
He reported he was in quarantine but did not say why or what his condition was.
Navalny also complained that he “almost lost his composure” after having to lug his vast collection of books from one prison to another.
“Yesterday, for the first time in my life, I carried these bags and thought book burning isn’t necessarily a bad thing,” he joked.
As of this week, Navalny was serving an 11-and-a-half-year sentence in the IK-2 penal colony in the village of Pokrov, Vladimir region.
Alexei Navalny wrote on his Telegram channel that he was transferred to the IK-6 prison in the village of Melekhovo, Vladimir region. Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images
But when his lawyer arrived at the prison to meet with him on Tuesday, he was told: “There is no such convict here.”
“We don’t know where Alexei is now and to which colony he will be taken,” Navalny’s chief of staff Leonid Volkov said on the Telegram app.
Hours later, regional prison monitor Sergey Yazhan said by phone that Navalny had been taken to the notorious Melekhovo penal colony.
The maximum security prison IK-6 is known as the “Conveyor Belt of Torture”. Alexander Nemenov/AFP via Getty Images
Melekhovo prison has become synonymous with allegations of brutal torture and systematic rape of prisoners.
A former inmate last year told the independent Russian media outlet Mediazona in vivid detail how he witnessed another convict being brutally beaten and sodomized with a whistle to extract a confession.
Navalny himself addressed the prison’s chilling reputation last month when he first learned he could be transferred there.
As of this week, Alexei Navalny was serving an 11-1/2-year sentence in the IK-2 penal colony. AFP via Getty Images
“They say if you google ‘Melekhovo’ there are stories from prisoners about fingernails being pulled out there,” he wrote on Instagram.
Navalny was initially sentenced to two and a half years in prison in February 2021 for violating probation after he voluntarily returned from Germany, where he was recovering in Russia from apparent poisoning with the neurotoxin Novichok, which he accuses the Kremlin of ordering.
On March 24, Navalny was sentenced to an additional nine years in prison for fraud and contempt of court. The high-profile dissident says the charges against him are fabricated and politically motivated.
Alexei Navalny was initially sentenced to two and a half years in prison for violating probation and nine years for fraud and contempt of court. Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg via Getty Images
The judge ordered Navalny, who has called Russia’s war in Ukraine “stupid”, to be transferred to a maximum security prison where his visiting and correspondence rights will be restricted.
Navalny said two weeks ago that he had been charged in a new criminal case with founding an extremist organization and inciting hatred of the authorities, offenses that carry a maximum sentence of 15 more years.
With post wires