MOSCOW – Russia’s jailed opposition leader Aleksey Navalny is on a hunger strike in a notorious penal colony. He says he suffers from back pain as prison guards “torture” him by waking him up every hour at night. Independent prison watchers have been desperate to control it, with hundreds of Russian public figures sending open letters and petitions to authorities, calling for the humiliating treatment to stop. Human rights activists addressed the Kremlin more directly on Friday: “They are slowly killing it.”
The answer? Instead of sending an independent human rights observer or a doctor to visit Navalny in prison, the Kremlin sent Maria Butina, a Russian spy and American ex-convict. Now a pro-Kremlin activist, Butina pleaded guilty in a US court in 2018 to acting as a Russian agent while infiltrating the political circles of the NRA and the Republican Party.
Desperate Putin resorts to jailing journalists for retweeting jokes
Butina reported what she had heard from other inmates in the prison colony, called IK-2, complaining not about the conditions in the prison, but about Navalny himself. Butina said other inmates despised Navalny for “lying in bed all day like a teacher” and said he “doesn’t clean up after himself.” He insisted that Navalny lived in better conditions than he had endured in an American jail. “My recommendation to Aleksey: If you committed a crime, be a man, serve your sentence.”
Butina also posted a video clip that claimed to show Navalny pacing slowly in her barrack: “He’s walking! Oh this is magic! With a cup of coffee, “he commented. Mr. Navalny had said that his legs were numb from back pain.
Butina said Navalny was rude to her during their approximately 20-minute conversation, accusing her of lying and stealing. A transcript of the alleged dialogue with Navalny was posted on Telegram, with Butina saying: “You know perfectly well that if you are not cleaning, someone will clean for you. I was in jail. I know it becomes someone else’s responsibility. “Navalny allegedly responded by telling him that he lies a lot and that” everything [she says] they are endless lies, including their stories about the American prison. “
Human rights defenders were shocked. “The moment Navalny obviously needs professional medical help, they send a team from the state television channel RT to that penal colony – this is an unacceptable situation,” Tanya Lokshina, director of the Russian program at Human Rights Watch, told The Daily Beast. .
The rules do not prohibit an outside doctor from providing care in the prison, Lokshina explained, adding that his team is “aware of cases where the Russian prison system provided civilian doctors to sick inmates.”
Butina’s comments horrified a former IK-2 inmate, Vladimir Pereverzin, who had served seven years there, describing the experience as a total nightmare.
“It’s hard to imagine anything more cynical and misleading,” Pereverzin, who was arrested and jailed after a crackdown on an oil company a decade ago, told the Daily Beast. “No one can stay in bed in that prison. If she says that he stays in bed all the time, it means that he is so ill that the prison doctor allowed it. “
“The prison guards constantly humiliated me,” he added. “They fabricated reports against me, so, like Navalny, I had to go on a hunger strike. I even stabbed myself in the stomach and only then did they transfer me to a single cell, which was a great relief. “
An opposition playwright and satirist Viktor Shenderovich said Butina’s visit symbolizes a general tone of derision in Kremlin politics.
“The government decided to kill Navalny, destroy him both physically and morally,” Shenderovich told the Daily Beast. “This is not a political movement, but a moral issue: Russia is divided at the moment between the obvious supporters of good and those who support evil.”
Shenderovich described Butina’s ordeal as a kind of “victory” for Kremlin loyalists.
“Many Kremlin supporters laugh now when they read Butina’s comments,” he said. “They are happy to see the Kremlin trolling and mocking the West and the Navalny supporters. But in reality, this is the humiliation of morality itself. “
Read more at The Daily Beast.
Get our top news delivered to your inbox every day. Register now!
Beast Daily Membership: Beast Inside delves into the stories that matter to you. Learn more.