Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny has been placed in a cell in Moscow’s notorious Matrosskaya Tishina detention center after a judge at a hastily arranged hearing ruled to keep the Kremlin critic in custody for 30 days following his dramatic airport arrest upon arrival from Germany.
The Kremlin said on January 19 that it was unfazed by mounting international pressure over the arrest of the 44-year-old, who was detained at the Sheremetyevo International Airport’s passport-control booth after he arrived from Berlin late on January 17, where he had been recovering from a poison attack in August that Navalny says was ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Aleksei Melnikov, secretary of the Public Monitoring Commission human rights group, wrote on Telegram late on January 18 that he had visited Navalny in his cell in the detention center.
Melnikov said that Navalny is being kept isolated in a three-bed cell since he has to be quarantined for two weeks according to coronavirus regulations for people arriving from abroad.
Navalny’s detention has sparked global outrage and a chorus of international calls pressuring Putin for the Kremlin critic’s immediate release.
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, however, shrugged off the criticism telling journalists at a press briefing in Moscow on January 19 that Navalny’s case was a “domestic issue” and that Russia has “no intention of listening to such statements.”
Matrosskaya Tishina (Sailor’s Silence) is the jail where several of Putin’s outspoken critics have been sent, including former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his associate Platon Lebedev. In one of the most-infamous cases, prominent whistle-blower, lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, died from an untreated illness while in the jail after accusing Russian officials of tax fraud totaling $230 million.
Melnikov wrote that Navalny thanked his supporters and said that he was happy to be back in Russia. Navalny said that there was no moral or physical pressure on him from the detention center’s personnel, according to Melnikov.
At the January 18 hearing held in an improvised court at a police station outside Moscow, which Navalny called a “mockery of justice,” the judge ruled to keep him incarcerated until February 15.
On February 2, a different court is expected to decide whether to convert into jail time a suspended 3 1/2 year sentence, which Navalny served in an embezzlement case that he says was trumped up.
After the court’s decision, Navalny and his associates urged Russians to take to the streets in protest.
Navalny’s detention has sparked global outrage and a chorus of international calls pressuring the Kremlin for his immediate release.
In St. Petersburg, police detained at least 20 people among a crowd of hundreds of Navalny supporters who had gathered on January 18 at the Gostiny Dvor trade complex.
People were also detained during similar rallies in support of the politician in Moscow and Khimki, near the capital.
Navalny himself called on Russians to take to the streets and his team headquarters in St. Petersburg called for nationwide protests on January 23.