Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has revealed he has a ‘freshly shaven head’ in a message from a prison colony in Russia which he likened to a ‘concentration camp’.
Surfacing for the first time since he was moved to the penal colony 60 miles from Moscow, Navalny described hellish conditions at the camp where he claims he is woken every hour at night by guards assigned to prevent his escape.
In the message posted on his Instagram account on Monday, he says he is being held in a heightened-security part of the camp and claims that inmates are even banned from swearing – adding that the rule is ‘strictly enforced’.
The post confirms that Navalny is being held at the feared Penal Colony No 2 in the town of Pokrov, a facility known for its strict conditions.
‘I think someone upstairs read Orwell’s 1984 and said, yeah, cool, let’s do this,’ said Navalny, who faces two-and-a-half years at the camp in a sentence which triggered massive protests across Russia.
Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has revealed he has a ‘freshly shaven head’ in a message from a prison colony in Russia which he today likened to a ‘concentration camp’
Barbed wire sits on top of a fence at the penal colony in Pokrov, Russia, where Navalny is believed to have been taken
Navalny said in the Instagram post that he had not yet seen any violence but ‘easily believed’ stories of beatings based on the ‘tense posture’ of other prisoners.
‘Video cameras are everywhere, everyone is watched and at the slightest violation they make a report,’ he said.
Navalny is only able to communicate with the outside world via his lawyers, but it was unclear who had posted the message on Instagram today.
It was accompanied by a picture of Navalny sat on a sofa with his hair cropped close to his head.
In a tongue-in-cheek reference to his shaved head, he said: ‘Three things never cease to amaze me. The starry sky above us, the categorical imperative within us and the amazing feeling when you run your palm over your freshly shaven head.’
He went on: ‘I have to admit that the Russian prison system was able to surprise me. I had no idea that it was possible to arrange a real concentration camp 100km from Moscow.
‘That’s what I call my new home – our friendly concentration camp.
‘Swearing and slang words are prohibited. And this prohibition is strictly enforced. Can you imagine a prison where they don’t swear? A terrible thing.
‘But if you treat everything with humour, then you can live. So, overall, I’m doing well.’
Navalny’s imprisonment sparked protests (such as this one in St Petersburg last month) and condemnation by Western powers
Describing the alleged hourly inspections, he said: ‘At night, every hour I wake up from the fact that a man [is] standing next to my bed.
‘He gets me on camera and says: “Two hours and thirty minutes, convict Navalny”,’ Navalny recalled, adding that he was designated as ‘prone to escape’.
‘And again I calmly fall asleep with the thought that there are people who remember me and will never lose. Great, isn’t it?’.
Navalny was handed a two-and-a-half year prison term last month for flouting parole conditions in a sentence widely condemned by Western powers.
It sparked a wave of anti-Kremlin protests which in turn have led to a police crackdown that has further angered foreign diplomats.
Navalny had returned to Russia in January five months after surviving a nerve agent attack on board a plane in Siberia which he accuses the Kremlin of orchestrating.
A German military lab found Navalny had been poisoned with the Soviet-era toxin Novichok, the same one used to target a double agent in Salisbury in 2018.
But the Kremlin has played down the findings and rejected claims of Russian involvement, accusing Navalny of being in league with the CIA.
It also denied Navalny’s claim that he had duped a Russian FSB security service agent into confessing details of the alleged plot.
Alexei Navalny was imprisoned after returning to Russia earlier this year
The prison sentence stems from a 2014 conviction for embezzlement which he says was based on trumped-up charges, leading to a jail term that was initially suspended.
But it was converted into real jail time after Navalny turned to Russia, with a court ignoring his protests that he could hardly have checked in with parole officers while in a coma in Berlin.
His exact whereabouts had been unclear after he was moved from a jail near Moscow and his lawyers said they did not know where he was being taken.
But it is now confirmed that he is being held in the Pokrov camp, which is among the most notorious facilities in Russia’s network of more than 600 labour colonies.
Russian news agencies quoted Navalny’s lawyer Olga Mikhailova as confirming that he was at the colony, saying that she had been able to visit him there.
Activist Konstantin Kotov, who spent nearly two years at the colony for violating protest rules, has previously described an environment in which inmates are not treated ‘like people’.
Last month a court also convicted Navalny of defamation for calling a World War II veteran a ‘traitor’ for appearing in a pro-Kremlin video.
He was ordered to pay a fine of 850,000 rubles ($11,500). His defence team is planning to appeal.