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'I am your new Santa Claus': Jailed Russian opposition leader posts from Arctic prison; takes a jibe at Putin

In a set of posts on X, Alexei Navalny described his 20-day journey to the "Polar Wolf" colony as "peculiar" and "draining," emphasizing that this facility is recognized as one of Russia's most challenging prisons.

I am your new Santa Claus Jailed Russian opposition leader posts from Arctic prison; takes a jibe at Putin snt
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First Published Dec 26, 2023, 6:27 PM IST

Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny, previously missing for over two weeks, has now disclosed that he has been relocated to a prison situated above the Arctic Circle. In a set of posts on X, Navalny described his 20-day journey to the "Polar Wolf" colony as "peculiar" and "draining," emphasizing that this facility is recognized as one of Russia's most challenging prisons.

Also read: 'Missing' Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is in Arctic prison colony

The majority of inmates in that location have been sentenced for serious offenses. Situated approximately 60 km (40 miles) north of the Arctic Circle, the prison colony traces its origins back to the 1960s as an integral component of the former GULAG system, which comprised forced Soviet labor camps. According to the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper, the facility was initially designated as "YATs-34/3."

In his initial post from the newly assigned prison, 47-year-old Navalny humorously declared, "I am your new Santa Claus," playfully alluding to the challenging weather conditions at the facility.

"Well, I now have a sheepskin coat, an ushanka hat (a fur hat with ear-covering flaps), and soon I will get valenki (a traditional Russian winter footwear). I have grown a beard for the 20 days of my transportation," he said.

"The 20 days of my transportation were pretty exhausting,but I'm still in a good mood, as befits a Santa Claus," Navalny said, adding: "They brought me here on Saturday night. And I was transported with such precaution and on such a strange route (Vladimir - Moscow - Chelyabinsk - Ekaterinburg - Kirov - Vorkuta - Kharp) that I didn't expect anyone to find me here before mid-January."

The absence of information regarding Navalny's location had sparked global apprehension regarding the well-being of the opposition leader, particularly with Russia preparing for the upcoming presidential elections in March of the following year. Vladimir Putin, vying for another six-year term as president, is anticipated to secure a substantial victory.

Navalny expressed his "surprise" upon the opening of his new jail cell door on Monday, accompanied by the announcement, "A lawyer is here to see you." He recounted, "He told me that you had lost me, and some of you were even worried. Thanks very much for your support!"

Before signing off, Navalny couldn't resist taking a veiled potshot at Putin: "Since I'm Santa Claus, you're probably wondering about the presents. But I am a special-regime Santa Claus, so only those who have behaved very badly get presents."

The US State Department has reiterated its deep concern for Navalny's welfare and the circumstances surrounding his unjust imprisonment.

Navalny played a pivotal role in organizing significant anti-government protests before his imprisonment in 2021, following a survival of an assassination attempt through poisoning. Throughout most of his detention, he was held at the IK-6 penal colony in the Vladimir region, located approximately 250 kilometers (155 miles) east of Moscow.

In August, a court extended his sentence to 19 years on extremism charges and mandated his transfer to a more rigorous prison. One notable distinction from his previous confinement is that communication, specifically letters, will experience prolonged delivery times as they now rely on the traditional postal service instead of email.

Also read: 2024 predictions by 'new Nostradamus': PM Modi's re-election, Putin's death, cyber attacks & more (WATCH)

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