Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been transferred to a penal colony outside Moscow to serve out his prison sentence, according to reports.
Navalny was transferred Thursday, a public commission said on Sunday. The penal colony, located in the town of Pokrov in the Vladimir region, is roughly three hours outside Moscow.
Navalny will spend two and a half years at the prison, Reuters reported.
The conditions of the prison are reportedly severe, with “extremely strict” measures.
“Inmates who have spent time in different prisons across Russia told me this was the toughest one they have been in,” Konstantin Kotov, who has spent two years at the prison, told The Moscow Times. “It definitely felt like a high-security prison for hard criminals.”
Prisoners reportedly cooperate with the prison administration to help control other inmates, a local activist told Reuters.
“If there is a need to prevent Navalny from communicating with others, nobody would talk to him,” said Ruslan Vakhapov, an activist of the prisoners’ rights group Jailed Russia. “(If anything happens), he wouldn’t be able to ask for help until his lawyer arrives.”
Navalny will be quarantined ahead of his term as a precaution against the coronavirus.
“It’s completely lawless there,” Pyotr Kuryanov, a lawyer at the Defense of Prisoners’ Rights Foundation NGO, told TMT. “They will break you. Bad things have been going on there for a long time.”
Navalny’s sentence is related to a 2014 fraud case the European Court of Human Rights ruled was unlawful, arbitrary and politically motivated. Russia is actually part of the European court’s jurisdiction, so its ruling matters technically, not just morally.
Navalny was arrested upon his return to Russia from Germany, where he had been treated after suffering a Novichok attempt on his life.
Navalny has claimed time and again that he didn’t flee Russia – he was transported out of the country while in a coma following the attempt on his life.
Fox News’ Amy Kellogg contributed to this report