Aleksei A. Navalny, the imprisoned Russian opposition leader, said on Thursday that prison authorities had stripped him of his client-lawyer privilege, which was his main line of communication with the outside world and allowed him to remain active in Russian political life.
In a series of messages on Twitter, which he uses to communicate with the public through his lawyers since he was imprisoned – Mr Navalny said the prison administration had accused him of committing unspecified crimes by communicating with “accomplices”.
Navalny, an ardent critic and frequent target of Russia’s President Vladimir V. Putin, said authorities had informed him that starting Thursday, all incoming and outgoing communications with his lawyers will be subject to “a three-day scrutiny.” The small slot in the lawyer’s room, which was used to transfer documents privately, was closed, he said, forcing them to communicate through “double plastic glass”.
“Our communication is now more like a pantomime,” said Mr. Navalny, adding: “This leaves nothing of my right of defense, which was already quite illusory.”
The attempt to restrict Mr Navalny’s communications came a day before Russians began voting in a series of regional and municipal elections across the country.
Navalny and his supporters have called on Russians to vote for a candidate who does not support the war in Ukraine. They have also developed an app that shows voters the most anti-Kremlin candidates in Moscow’s municipal elections.
Navalny returned voluntarily to Russia in January 2021 after surviving an attempted poisoning by a military-grade nerve agent. He accused Mr Putin of ordering his assassination and published a thorough investigation into the poisoning, citing Russian security agents as the culprits. Mr Putin denied any involvement in the episode.
Navalny was arrested on arrival at a Moscow airport and charged with violating the terms of his suspended sentence. Weeks later, a court commuted his suspended sentence and he was jailed. In March 2022, a court sentenced him to nine years in prison after finding him guilty of fraud by embezzling donations from his supporters. The case was widely seen as politically motivated.
The harsh sentences failed to pacify Mr Navalny, who strongly criticized Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. By making statements through his lawyer, or taking advantage of his court appearances, he has called on the Russians to protest the war.
Most of Navalny’s associates and many of his followers were forced to flee Russia after his anti-corruption foundation was declared an extremist organization and banned. The exiles continued their activities from abroad, establishing a list of Russian “war activists” and lobbying the West to impose sanctions.
Prison authorities have also put pressure on Mr Navalny by placing him in solitary confinement for weeks for minor offensives, such as wearing an unbuttoned prison uniform. He also said that they stripped him of the right to call his family.