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Navalny, Wife Describe Extended Visit At Russian Prison Facility


Yulia Navalnaya, wife of the jailed Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, during an opposition rally in Moscow (file photo)
Yulia Navalnaya, wife of the jailed Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, during an opposition rally in Moscow (file photo)

The wife of jailed Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny has completed a so-called "long visit" with her husband six months into his most recent imprisonment.

Such visits can last up to three days at a special prison facility under the Russian penitentiary system and all inmates are eligible from six months into serving their sentence.

Navalny, who has been in a prison in the town of Pokrov about 100 kilometers east of Moscow for six months, posted a photo on Instagram on August 5 showing him smiling widely as he and his wife, Yulia, embrace.

“We reconstructed a dinner at the dacha. And yesterday I was sitting completely happy, looking at a pan of sorrel borscht (in our family it is a cult) and a pan of fried potatoes,” Navalny said on Instagram.

Yulia Navalnaya, who was allowed to stay for three days, also used Instagram to post a message about the visit.

"I spent some time in prison. So cool!" she wrote, saying her husband, who spent 24-days on a hunger strike in April, appeared skinny, tanned, and smiling when he was brought out to greet her in a prison jumpsuit.

“The beloved man is next to you. You reach out and touch [him], still a little surprised that no one is trying to stop you," Navalnaya wrote.

She described the family meeting facilities at the prison as having "a very decent look of a 2-star hotel," with a couple of rooms, a kitchen, and paintings on the walls.

Navalny, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most-vocal critics, is serving 2 1/2 years in jail for parole violations in an embezzlement case he says was trumped up. Navalny's allies accuse the authorities of using the law to crush dissent ahead of Russia’s parliamentary elections in September.

Navalny was arrested in January upon his return from Germany, where he had spent five months recovering from a nerve-agent poisoning in August last year that he blames on the Kremlin -- accusations that Russian officials reject.

A Moscow court in February converted a 3 1/2-year suspended sentence on the embezzlement charge to real jail time, saying he broke the terms of the original sentence by leaving Russia for the life-saving treatment he received in Germany.

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The court reduced the sentence to just over 2 1/2 years because of time already served in detention.

Yulia Navalnaya said she brought in everything her husband had told her he was missing and said the guards "carefully inspected the borscht," checking for a mobile phone, and cut into items searching for drugs and sniffing drinks for alcohol.

After the three days were over she said her husband was dressed in a robe again and taken away.

She said Navalny, who recently had his ability to communicate with the outside world further curtailed, sends "warmest greetings to everyone."

According to the Federal Penitentiary Service's regulations, Navalny will be eligible for the next "long visit" by relatives in six months, on condition of "good behavior."

In Russia and most of the former Soviet republics, penitentiary administrations have a right to deprive inmates of "long or short visits" as a punishment for violating internal regulations. "A short visit" is a two-hour talk by phone with relatives via a glass window. "Short visits" are allowed two or four times a year, depending on the penitentiary's security level.

Last week, a court rejected Navalny's lawsuit against a decision that bans his lawyers from bringing mobile phones and laptop computers into the penitentiary during visits.

Russia's media regulator, Roskomnadzor, blocked Navalny’s website in a crackdown against media and civil organizations ahead of the elections.

With reporting by Reuters and dpa
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