Kremlin critic Navalny moved to prison colony outside Moscow

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny will serve his prison term at the colony 100km east of Moscow

A general view shows Penal Colony No 2, where opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was sentenced this month on parole violations, supposedly serves his jail term, in the town of Pokrov, Russia February 28, 2021. REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva

Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has been transferred to a penal colony outside Moscow to serve his prison sentence, a public commission said on Sunday, weeks after he returned to Russia after being poisoned.

His whereabouts had been unknown since Thursday when his allies learnt that he was transferred out of one of Moscow's most infamous jails to an undisclosed location.

Navalny, 44, was arrested on his return from Germany last month and has been sentenced to more than 2 and a half years years for parole breaches that he said were trumped up.

He has been transferred to a penal colony in the Vladimir region, the Moscow Public Monitoring Commission, which defends the rights of prisoners and has access to people in custody, said on its website.

Navalny will serve his term in penal colony No 2 in the town of Pokrov, about 100 kilometres east of Moscow, Tass state news agency said.

Reuters pictures showed metallic grey buildings behind a grey fence and barbed wire inside the colony, as well as the gold domes of a church.

A guard at the gate asked people to keep at least 100 metres away if they wanted to film it.

Ruslan Vakhapov, a local activist with the prisoners' rights group Jailed Russia, described conditions as particularly severe.

"In short, it's a bad colony," Mr Vakhapov told Reuters.

Many prisoners co-operate with the colony administration and help them to control other inmates closely, abusing them if they break a strict daily schedule, he said.

"If there is a need to prevent Navalny from communicating with others, nobody would talk to him," Mr Vakhapov said.

"[If anything happened], he wouldn't be able to ask for help until his lawyer arrives."

Navalny will be quarantined as a precaution against the spread of coronavirus before joining other prisoners in the colony, the monitoring commission said, according to the RIA news agency.

Earlier on Sunday a Navalny ally, Leonid Volkov, called on Twitter for authorities to provide official information about his whereabouts and access by his lawyers.

Navalny, the Kremlin's most prominent critic, suffered a near-fatal poisoning in Siberia in August with what many western nations said was a Soviet-era nerve agent.

He accuses the Kremlin of ordering his attempted murder.

Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed that, claiming Navalny is part of a US-backed campaign to discredit him.