WASHINGTON—Following the temporary disappearance of imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his subsequent transfer to an infamously severe prison colony in Melekhovo, Russia, Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (Md.), Co-Chairman Rep. Steve Cohen (Tenn.-09), and Ranking Members Sen. Roger Wicker (Miss.) and Rep. Joe Wilson (S.C.-02) issued the following joint statement:
“Alexei Navalny should have never been jailed in the first place. His disappearance—with no notification to his lawyers or his family—is a chilling reminder of the dangerous reality of being a political prisoner in Putin’s Russia. The Melekhovo prison colony is infamous for its history of abuse and torture, and we are concerned that Mr. Navalny is now at even greater risk of harm. We will never stop calling for his release and the release of all prisoners of conscience in Russia, including Russian patriot Vladimir Kara-Murza.”
On June 14, Navalny’s lawyers unexpectedly were turned away from IK-2, the penal colony where he had been detained, and informed only that Navalny was no longer there. Russian state media later reported that he was transferred to a high-security penal colony in Melekhovo, in the same region. Inmates there report being beaten, raped, and tortured by guards and other inmates.
In March, Russian authorities sentenced Navalny to nine years in prison, in addition to his original sentence of two and a half years. He has been jailed since January 2021.
Vladimir Kara-Murza, who was arrested in April, remains in prison awaiting trial for spreading “false” information about the Russian military.