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Alexey Navalny fails to attend trial after his team loses contact with jailed Russian opposition leader – CNN News

By Niamh Kennedy, Darya Tarasova and Anna Chernova, CNN

(CNN) – The trial of Alexey Navalny was postponed on Tuesday, one day after his team said it had lost contact with the jailed Russian opposition leader, who was believed to be imprisoned in a penal colony about 150 miles east of Moscow.

Concern was sparked on Monday after spokesperson Kira Yarmysh put out several social media posts, highlighting that her team had lost contact with Navalny, who was supposedly being held in the IK-6 penal colony.

The spokesperson for Navalny, who was jailed for 19 years on extremism charges in August in addition to a previous sentence, cited a prison employee who claimed the 47-year-old had “left their colony” but still could not confirm his whereabouts on Tuesday.

Ivan Zhdanov, the director of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, said in a post on X that the politician’s trial was postponed again on Tuesday. When the judge asked a question regarding Navalny’s whereabouts, he was redirected to the Federal Penitentiary service, Zhdanov said.

Navalny was found guilty this year of creating an extremist community, financing extremist activities and numerous other crimes. He was already serving sentences of totaling 11-and-a-half years in a maximum security facility on fraud and other charges, all of which he denies.

Supporters of Navalny claim his arrest and incarceration are a politically motivated attempt to stifle his criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Lawyers have made several attempts to get access to two penal colonies where Navalny, who has suffered serious health issues, was believed to be held, Yarmysh said Monday on X. They were informed that he was at neither the IK-6 or IK-7 penal colonies, Yarmysh added.

Speaking on a conference call with journalists Tuesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov expressed the Kremlin’s strong objection to US intervention after the White House said it was “deeply concerned” about reports of Navalny’s disappearance.

“We are talking here about one prisoner who, according to the law, was found guilty and is serving his sentence, and in this case, we consider any intervention by anyone, including the United States of America, unacceptable and impossible,” Peskov told reporters.

He added that the Kremlin had neither the capacity nor willingness to monitor prisoners’ whereabouts.

Navalny’s disappearance came just days after Putin announced he would run for president again in Russia’s elections in March 2024, in a move that could see him retain power until at least 2030.

A thorn in Putin’s side

Navalny has posed one of the most serious threats to Putin’s legitimacy during his rule, which has spanned more than two decades. He organized anti-government street protests and used his blog and social media to expose alleged corruption in the Kremlin as well as Russian business.

The dissident was taken from Russia to Germany in 2020, after he was poisoned with Novichok, a Soviet-era nerve agent. Navalny had to be airlifted from the Siberian city of Omsk and arrived comatose at a hospital in Berlin.

A joint investigation by CNN and the group Bellingcat implicated the Russian Security Service (FSB) in Navalny’s poisoning. The investigation found that the FSB toxins team of about six to 10 agents had trailed Navalny for more than three years.

Russia denies involvement in Nalvany’s poisoning. Putin said in December 2020 that if the Russian security service had wanted to kill Navalny, they “would have finished” the job.

Navalny was immediately incarcerated upon his return to Russia in January 2021, on charges of violating the terms of his probation related to a fraud case brought against him in 2013, which he also dismissed as politically motivated.

He has campaigned from prison against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and attempted to mobilize public opposition to the war.

“We will conduct an election campaign against the war. And against Putin. Exactly. A long, stubborn, exhausting, but fundamentally important campaign, where we will turn people against the war,” Navalny said, according to a statement on his website.

CNN’s Nikki Carvajal contributed to this report.

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