Where Is Alexei Navalny Now? Vladimir Putin's Biggest Critic Goes Missing

Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been taken from his penal colony to an undisclosed location, one of his close aides has said.

Kira Yarmysh said on Tuesday that Navalny was not there when a lawyer visited him at the IK-2 colony located around 60 miles east of Moscow, in the Vladimir region.

Alexei Navalny
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny appears from prison on a video link provided by the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service, at a courtroom in Vladimir, Russia, Tuesday, June 7, 2022. AP

The lawyer was told "there is no such convict," tweeted Yarmysh, who added: "We don't know where Aleksey is now and to what colony he is being taken."

"Of course, neither Alexei's attorneys nor his relatives were informed about his transfer in advance", Yarmysh said, adding that there had been rumors that he would be transferred to the IK-6 penal colony in Melekhovo, "but it is impossible to know when (and if) he will actually arrive there."

"The problem with his transfer to another colony is not only that the high-security colony is much scarier," she wrote.

"As long as we don't know where Alexei is, he remains one-on-one with the system that has already tried to kill him, so our main task now is to locate him as soon as possible."

Navalny's lawyer Olga Mikhailova later said that the opposition figure had been transferred "to a strict regime colony, but we were not told which one," Tass reported.

Newsweek has contacted Russia's Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) for comment.

Last month, Navalny expressed concerns that he would be sent to the Melekhovo prison, notorious for the torture of its inmates.

"My new sentence has not yet entered into force, but I've heard rumors that I'll be transferred to the high-security colony in Melekhovo, where convicts get their fingernails pulled out," he tweeted on May 4.

Melekhovo colony in Vladimir
Melekhovo colony in Vladimir region in Russia VK

In February 2021, Navalny, Russia's highest-profile opposition leader and a thorn in the side of President Vladimir Putin, was jailed for two and a half years for parole violations.

He had just returned from Germany, where he had been recovering from a poisoning by the Novichok nerve agent blamed on the Kremlin, which denies responsibility.

On March 24, Navalny was given another nine years in prison for fraud and contempt of court on charges he says are politically motivated. Navalny's anti-corruption foundation (FBK) has been largely dismantled after the authorities labeled it an "extremist" organization. Last week, Navalny had his appeal rejected by a Russian court over a decision to label him an extremist and a terrorist.

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, the Kremlin has stepped up its crackdown on dissent. Navalny has spoken out against the war in a court appearance, attacking Putin during a court appearance and calling the invasion "built entirely on lies."

Navalny ally Ivan Zhdanov told Reuters this month that Navalny will remain in prison as long as Putin is in power.

Update 06/14/22, 8.45 ET: This article has been updated with further information.

Update 06/14/22, 11 a.m. ET: This article has been updated with comment to Tass from Navalny's lawyer.