Aleksei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader jailed after surviving an assassination attempt said on Thursday that he has been transferred permanently to a solitary confinement cell that would limit his contact with other prisoners and the outside world.
“They’re doing it to keep me quiet,” Mr. Navalny said in posts on his verified Twitter account, adding that staying in the small, cramped cell was typically limited to 15 days as a punishment. The rules also bar “long visits” from relatives, he said.
The order came just four days before his family was expected to come see him, according to a post on Twitter from Team Navalny, the core organizers behind his opposition movement, who have all fled Russia.
Mr. Navalny was incarcerated in the notorious Penal Colony No. 2, just east of Moscow, in March 2021 after he returned to Russia from Germany, where he had been recuperating. White House officials said that American intelligence agencies had concluded Russian security police agents had poisoned Mr. Navalny. There is substantial evidence the Kremlin was behind the poisoning.
He knew that he was facing possible arrest and a prison sentence for violating his parole by going to Germany, but he returned anyway. He had become Russia’s most prominent opposition leader by exposing high level corruption and by challenging President Vladimir V. Putin at the polls.
At least nine years have already been added to his initial two-year sentence, and few expect him to emerge from prison while Mr. Putin is still president.
“The general tendency has been to pressure him constantly, to make every day even worse, to keep pressuring him so that he breaks, to suppress him,” Lyubov Sobol, a key member of Navalny’s team, said in an interview, adding that a renewed effort to cut him off from the outside began around the end of September, about the same time that the Kremlin ordered a general draft for the Ukraine war.
“These have been conditions of severe isolation; now he is isolated even more,” she said.
Ms. Sobol said there were concerns about Mr. Navalny’s health, even though he was not one to complain about that.
In a long thread on the social media network, Mr. Navalny wrote with his characteristic dry humor that his new cell was a “regular cramped cell, like a punishment cell” but that he was allowed to bring two books instead of one and that he could use the prison commissary for a limited amount of money.
Mr. Navalny said that he had already been locked up in solitary confinement seven times in the last three months, having spent two-thirds of his time there since August.
Aside from attempting to start a labor union among the prisoners, other “infractions” that landed him there included not buttoning his collar and not cleaning the prison yard well enough, he said. Another time he had addressed a prison official by his military rank rather than the more respectable name and patronymic.
Mr. Navalny had previously described the cells as among the worst punishments. “I’m not going to lie — it’s a hellhole and an unpleasant place in every way possible,” he wrote. “But there are more important things in life than comfort.”
Mr. Navalny said his new conditions would not prevent him from speaking out against the war and the ruling party. “That’s what I call on everyone to do,” he wrote “At every opportunity, campaign against the war, Putin and United Russia.”