Alexei Navalny Compares Russian Penal Colony to a 'Friendly Concentration Camp'

Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny compared his conditions in the Russian prison colony to a "concentration camp" in a letter posted to his Instagram on Monday.

Navalny's post confirmed that he arrived at a prison colony in Pokrov in the Vladimir region of Russia, about 53 miles east of Moscow.

In the post, Navalny described the prison as a "friendly concentration camp." He added that he hasn't seen "even a hint at violence" at the facility, but has faced conditions that he compared to George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.

"Video cameras are everywhere, everyone is watched and at the slightest violation they make a report," Navalny said in his Instagram post, according to google translate. "I think someone upstairs read Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and said: 'Yeah, cool. Let's do this. Education through dehumanization."

Navalny's post featured an image of him with a shaved head. In the text of the post, he added it feels "amazing" to touch.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny appears on a
Opposition leader Alexei Navalny appears on a screen set up at a hall of the Moscow Regional Court via a video link from Moscow's penal detention center Number 1, 2020. He has since compared his conditions at the Russian penal colony to a "concentration camp." Photo by ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty Images/Getty Images

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Navalny, 44, Russian President Vladimir Putin's most vociferous foe, was arrested on Jan. 17 upon returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin. Russian authorities have rejected the accusation.

Last month, Navalny was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for violating the terms of his probation while convalescing in Germany. The sentence stems from a 2014 embezzlement conviction that Navalny has rejected as fabricated—and which the European Сourt of Human Rights has ruled to be unlawful.

Navalny, whom prison authorities marked as a flight risk, said he's subject to particularly close oversight that includes a guard waking him up every hour at night and filming him to report that he's in place.

"I calmly go back to sleep with a thought that there are people who remember about me and will never lose me," he said with a touch of his trademark sardonic humor, adding that the prison is rigged with surveillance cameras.

"I must acknowledge that the Russian prison system has managed to surprise me," Navalny wrote. "I couldn't imagine that it was possible to set up a real concentration camp within 100 kilometers from Moscow."

He said that the prison regimen is rigorously observed and prisoners meticulously follow the rules.

"While I haven't seen any violence or even a hint at violence, the strained posture of inmates who stand at attention and fear turning their heads make me easily believe numerous accounts of people beaten nearly to death with wooden hammers here at IK-2 Pokrov quite recently," he said. "But the methods have changed, and I can't even recall a place where everyone speaks so politely. I call my new home 'our friendly concentration camp.'"

Navalny didn't explain how he managed to hand over the letter that was posted.

Navalny's arrest triggered a wave of protests that drew tens of thousands to the streets across Russia. Authorities have detained about 11,000 people, many of whom were fined or given jail terms ranging from seven to 15 days.

Russian officials have dismissed demands from the United States and the European Union to free Navalny and stop the crackdown on his supporters.

Moscow also has rebuffed the European Court of Human Rights' ruling ordering the Russian government to release him, dismissing the demand as unlawful and "inadmissible" meddling in Russia's home affairs.