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In First Interview From Jail, Russia's Navalny Describes 'Psychological Violence'

Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny appears in court from prison via a video link on June 25.
Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny appears in court from prison via a video link on June 25.

In his first media interview from the penal colony where he is being held, Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny discussed his life as a political prisoner, saying he was being forced to watch Russian state television and selected propaganda movies for more than eight hours a day.

Navalny is also spending much of his time sweeping the prison yard, reading letters in his cellblock, and visiting the mess for meals, with porridge often on the menu, the outspoken critic of the Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a written exchange of questions and answers with The New York Times, which published excerpts on August 25.

The entirety of the interview, which the newspaper said covers 54 handwritten pages, was published in Russian on Navalny's website.

Navalny, 45, fell violently ill one year ago while on a passenger flight in Siberia, forcing the plane into making an emergency landing where he was rushed to hospital. Days later, he was airlifted to a clinic in Berlin where doctors battled to save his life. It was later determined by several laboratories that he had been poisoned with a Soviet-style nerve agent.

Upon his return from Germany in January, Navalny was jailed for parole violations on what he says were politically motivated charges. The opposition politician has blamed Putin for the poisoning, while the Kremlin denies any involvement.

The experience of a political prisoner at Correctional Colony No. 3 (IK-3) in the Vladimir region east of Moscow is mostly “psychological violence,” with forced screen time playing a big role, Navalny wrote.

Reading, writing, sleeping, “or doing anything else” is prohibited during the five daily sessions of television watching for inmates.

“You have to sit in a chair and watch TV.”

He described the penal colony as “something like a Chinese labor camp, where everybody marches in a line and where video cameras are hung everywhere.”

“Everything is organized so that I am under maximum control 24 hours a day,” the Kremlin foe wrote.

Despite his ordeal, Navalny was upbeat about Russia’s future, calling the “Putin regime” a “historical accident” that is doomed to collapse.

“Russia will move on to a democratic, European path of development. Simply because that is what the people want,” he wrote.

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