Russia: Navalny Jokes At Seeing Familiar Face in Court

Published: 11 January 2024

Navalny Court LinkNavalny’s latest court hearing took place via video conference. (Photo: Команда Навального/Team Navalny/Twitter, License)

By Henry Pope

Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny could only find humor in appearing on Wednesday before a familiar judge who uphold the court’s previous decision for him to remain in solitary confinement in a remote Arctic prison.

Seldom seen since his December 2023 transfer to the IK-3 prison dubbed the “Polar Wolf,” Navalny argued via video conference against his punitive 12-day punishment for failing to properly greet a guard. The court argued that offensive language was used during the exchange and denied the request, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported.

The Kremlin critic could only fall back on humor as the decision went against him, as he relayed to the judge that “a tear is flowing down my cheek,” meant to convey his delight at the chance to see him again.

Polar Wolf is home to some of Russia’s most notorious and irreformable prisoners, be they serial killers, rapists, pedophiles, or anyone who proves themself a threat to Russian president Vladimir Putin’s decades-long hold on power.

Back in August 2023, Navalny received a 19-year sentence, on top of the 11-year sentence he was already serving, on charges of “extremism.” His combined 30-year sentence is recognized by the international community as a poorly-veiled attempt by the Kremlin to keep him from running against Putin for the rest of his natural life.

His incarceration followed his hospitalization back in August 2020, where he fell seriously ill on a flight from Tomsk to Moscow. He was given life-saving emergency treatment on the plane and eventually transferred from Omsk to a German hospital.

Blood tests later definitively identified the poison as the deadly Novichok nerve agent. Russia is the only known country that has developed and used this particular chemical weapon.

American sanctions in the aftermath of the attack reported that eight Russian FSB operatives surveyed Navalny in the days leading up to the flight, broke into his hotel room, and applied the nerve agent to his personal belongings. They then conspired to erase any evidence of the operation.

The Kremlin has continued to deny that Novichok was found in Navalny’s blood, and Russian authorities have never opened an investigation into the poisoning, with prosecutors denying that a crime had ever even taken place. Upon his return to Russia from Germany in January 2021, he was arrested for violating his parole while being treated in a Berlin hospital.

Navalny’s colleagues made a Telegram post on Jan. 9, 2024, where they urged all Russians to hold a “Russia Without Putin” day on January 21, the third anniversary of his arrest.

As he continues to serve his sentence in solitary confinement, he has filed another matter before the courts: his right to receive letters written to him by his wife, RFE/RL said. Navalny has asked for time to prepare for the hearing, specifying that he needs to review the prison warden’s written order demanding the letters’ confiscation.