Alexei Navalny et al. looking at a cell phone: The opposition leader Alexei Navalny with journalists after his release from a detention center in August. Authorities detained a manager of his Anti-Corruption Foundation on Monday night in Moscow.

© Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters
The opposition leader Alexei Navalny with journalists after his release from a detention center in August. Authorities detained a manager of his Anti-Corruption Foundation on Monday night in Moscow.

MOSCOW — After trying a number of methods to silence the dissident Aleksei A. Navalny and his supporters, the Russian authorities tried something new this week: They seized one of his key allies, put him into compulsory military service and sent him to the Arctic.

Ruslan Shaveddinov, 23, a project manager in Mr. Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, was detained on Monday at his apartment in Moscow. His cellphone’s SIM card was disabled, Mr. Navalny said, so he couldn’t tell his colleagues or lawyer what was happening.

Mr. Navalny’s allies quickly raised the alarm that night, after it appeared that Mr. Shaveddinov had gone missing and they found the door to his apartment smashed in.

The organization’s lawyers and activists — many of them familiar with harassment by the authorities — braced to find Mr. Shaveddinov at a police station, and even filed a missing-person report. But on Tuesday they learned that he was already 3,500 miles away, in Novaya Zemlya, a desolate, scantly populated group of islands in the Arctic Ocean, where he will serve at an air defense base.

Sign Up For the Morning Briefing Newsletter

Mr. Navalny, the most prominent Kremlin critic in a country where open political dissent is rare and often dangerous, blamed the man atop the Kremlin hierarchy, President Vladimir V. Putin.

“Looks like Mr. Putin himself drafted the plan to isolate our Ruslan,” Mr. Navalny wrote on Twitter.

“I am impressed by the scale of the means and efforts used: His SIM card was disabled; the F.S.B. broke the door,” he added, referring to Russia’s powerful security agency. “Within a day he was taken on several airplanes to Novaya Zemlya.”

The archipelago, with two main islands, is an area of severe climate, where even in August temperatures rarely climb above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. About a quarter of its territory is permanently covered by ice. During Soviet times, it was the primary nuclear weapons testing site for the army. The most powerful nuclear weapon ever created, known as the Czar bomb, was tested there in 1961.

Military service is mandatory in Russia for male citizens, who are drafted for one year, some time after turning 18 and before turning 28. The conscripts are often sent to remote areas away from home, where they are subjected to brutal hazing and bullying by more senior soldiers.

In October, Ramil Shamsutdinov, a Russian conscript, killed eight fellow servicemen at a military base in eastern Siberia. After the shooting, Mr. Shamsutdinov told his lawyer that the conditions in his military unit were similar to ones found in prison and that officers deprived him of sleep for days and forced him to clean toilets,, a Russian news website, reported.

Scared of the army’s reputation, many young Russians try to use all means available to avoid being drafted. Mr. Shaveddinov appealed the military commission’s decision to draft him in court, arguing that he hadn’t been properly examined by doctors.

After a district court in Moscow ruled against him in November, he filed an appeal in the city court. On Monday, the day Mr. Shaveddinov was detained, Moscow city court upheld the lower court’s decision.

“Military service has turned into a mechanism of imprisonment,” Mr. Navalny wrote on Twitter following Mr. Shaveddinov’s induction. “Just a way to deprive people of freedom.”

Over the years, the Russian authorities have tried a number of methods to silence Mr. Navalny and his allies. They have been jailed, fined and attacked on the streets by strangers, and their homes and offices have been searched.

In October, the country’s Justice Ministry classified the Anti-Corruption Foundation as a “foreign agent,” a label often used to stigmatize anti-Kremlin groups in Russia.

Source link

About the Author:

Leave a Reply