Putins rival mysteriously disappears days after announcing election run

The whereabouts of Vladimir Putin’s main political opponent are unknown after he was removed from the prison colony he had been in for the past months.

The lawyer of Russia’s opposition leader Alexei Navalny was told by staff at the IK-6 facility in the town of Melekhovo, located some 235 kilometres east of Moscow, that the activist was no longer among the prison’s inmates.

Mr Navalny had been incarcerated in this prison, the subject of investigations into the abuse of inmates, since the summer of 2022.

Allies of Mr Navalny tried to get to IK-7 too, another colony in the Vladimir region, in the hope he might be there, but they could not locate him.

The vocal critic of Putin was due to appear in court on December 11 via video link, but did not. His spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, said prison officials cited electricity problems as a reason for Mr Navalny’s absence.

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Ms Yarmysh noted Mr Navalny’s allies were concerned for his wellbeing, as they hadn’t heard from him in several days.

She wrote on the social media platform X: “It is already the sixth straight day that we don’t know where Alexei is and what is happening to him.” She added: “Where they have taken him, they refuse to say.”

This comes days after Ms Yarmysh raised alarm bells about the wellbeing of Mr Navalny, claiming on Friday that staff at IK-6 had put Putin’s political enemy on a drip after he felt dizzy and laid down on the floor of his cell. The spokesperson said Mr Navalny’s dizziness looked like “hunger faint”.

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Moreover, Maria Pevchikh, chair of Mr Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, claimed on X the political activist had suffered a “serious health incident”.

She said: “We have learned that last week he had a serious health-related incident. Navalny’s life is at great risk. He is in complete isolation right now.”

Mr Navalny has been suffering from long-term health issues after he was poisoned with a nerve agent in 2020 – an incident he blamed the Kremlin for. The Kremlin denied trying to kill Mr Navalny and says he is being treated like any other prisoner.

After being treated for the poisoning in Germany, the activist was arrested upon his return to Moscow.

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He has been behind bars since January 2021, and he is serving three prison terms totalling more than 30 years on various criminal charges including extremism and fraud.

Mr Navalny denies all charges against him, and his supporters claim his arrest and incarceration are a politically motivated attempt to silence his criticism of the Kremlin and Putin.

Concerns about Mr Navalny come as the Russian President announced he will run for re-election in March 2024. One day prior, Mr Navalny’s team launched their own electoral campaign, in which they are pleading with Russians to vote for anybody but Putin.

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