Jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny fears the regime intends to isolate him permanently in what he himself calls a “dog cage”.
Last week, he lost again to the Russian authorities, when a judge dismissed a protest against Navalny’s tougher prison sentences.
Under Putin, the judiciary is part of the regime’s apparatus of repression. Free courts do not exist. There are many indications that the Kremlin is now tightening its grip on the president’s harshest critics.
The 46-year-old has spent nearly 70 days in isolation in the so-called IK-6 camp, in Vladimir Oblast, east of Moscow, over the past 10 weeks.
Here he is guarded under a strict security regime known to torture and mistreat inmates.
Prisoners who, according to the prison authorities, have violated the internal rules, may be placed in a solitary cell of no more than 3 x 3.5 meters. Described as a “concrete dog cage”. Usually, this sentence in sentence is limited to two weeks.
Just not in the case of Navalny.
This is the seventh time since August that he has been confined to a cramped cell.
Now Putin’s critics fear the Kremlin has ordered him to be kept there on a permanent basis. “They are doing this to silence me,” he wrote in a message posted on his official Twitter account.
In March of this year, Alexei Navalny was sentenced to nine years in prison for various crimes. A summary judgment can hardly be called anything other than politically motivated.
Notably, it came on top of a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence for breach of duty to report after a suspended sentence. A reporting duty that he could not comply with because he was lying in a coma in a hospital in Germany, he tried to be killed with a poison that only Putin’s secret police can get rid of.
The criminal case was a farce. The prison sentence is a hideous farce.
But it is not surprising, unfortunately. The way Navalny and other opposition politicians are being treated is a constant confirmation of the miserable state of democracy in Russia.
It’s also a reminder of the mechanics of paranoia always playing out in absolutism. Opposing forces are not tolerated. The Kremlin has a long tradition of crushing dissent.
Under the leadership of former KGB officer Vladimir Putin, Russia has reopened its Soviet-era toolbox. They don’t even hide it. The novichok nerve agent, the signature of the secret services, was used again.
Poison killings on foreign soil, crackdowns on critics of the regime, security forces against political opponents, and false propaganda are recognizable methods from the country’s darkest period.
Putin’s iron grip on Russian institutions is absolute. Runs the army and the police. In addition, he controls the National Assembly, the media, and the courts.
With laws and orders dictated by the president himself, it is virtually impossible to think or say anything other than what Putin allows. His power base is violence.
Without drawing parallels other than showing how Putin actually exercises his role as head of state, there is empirical evidence of how such stories develop — and how they end rather brutally.
The system of fear he established does not end well for those at the top. At least in Russia.
“Coffee trailblazer. Certified pop culture lover. Infuriatingly humble gamer.”