MOSCOW — Aleksei A. Navalny, the imprisoned Russian opposition chief, has been denied visits from his docs and attorneys.
However one unlikely customer to the notoriously harsh penal colony the place he’s being held did flip up this week: Maria Butina, the one Russian to serve jail time in the US in relation to investigations of Russian political affect operations throughout and after the 2016 election. She now works for RT, a pro-Kremlin tv channel.
In keeping with social media posts by Ms. Butina and supporters of Mr. Navalny, the 2 had a face-to-face encounter that appeared to have been punctuated by mutual insults.
In 2018, Ms. Butina pleaded responsible in the US to at least one cost of conspiring to behave as an unregistered overseas agent, generally known as “espionage mild.” Prosecutors accused Ms. Butina of getting befriended Republican Celebration politicians and leaders within the Nationwide Rifle Affiliation whereas sending stories again to Russia. She served most of her 18-month sentence after which was deported.
Earlier within the week, Ms. Butina taunted Mr. Navalny in on-line posts for talking out about his deteriorating well being within the Russian jail, Penal Colony No. 2, recognized by its initials IK2, within the Vladimir Area east of Moscow, implying American prisons are worse. “Are you a person?” she wrote on Wednesday.
Her go to Thursday appeared meant to ship the identical message in individual, in line with the account posted by Mr. Navalny’s supporters.
“As an alternative of a physician, at the moment the depressing RT tv propagandist Butina arrived, accompanied by video cameras,” stated Mr. Navalny’s Telegram channel. “She was yelling that that is one of the best and most comfy jail.”
Mr. Navalny narrowly survived a poisoning with a army nerve agent final yr and was medically evacuated to Berlin. He returned voluntarily to Russia in January and was arrested on the airport. In February, he was sentenced to greater than two years in jail.
In jail, Mr. Navalny has suffered from again and leg ache that has not been identified, in line with his lawyer, who stated Mr. Navalny couldn’t rule out lingering results of the poisoning. Mr. Navalny has stated he has a herniated disk from driving in jail transport autos and is dropping feeling in each legs.
He has additionally suffered from sleep deprivation because the guards wake him hourly at evening as a result of he has been categorized as a flight threat, regardless of returning to Russia voluntarily to be arrested, he and his attorneys have stated.
Mr. Navalny’s supporters say jail authorities are deliberately subjecting him to a drawn-out torment whereas additionally shortly tallying sufficient petty infractions, similar to rising 10 minutes late or sporting a T-shirt to a gathering along with his attorneys, to ship him to a punishment block in the event that they select. It’s a painful instance for different Russian dissidents to observe.
On Tuesday, President Emmanuel Macron of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany raised considerations about Mr. Navalny’s deteriorating well being throughout a three-way video convention with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. The Kremlin has stated Mr. Navalny receives enough well being care.
On Wednesday, Mr. Navalny declared a starvation strike till he’s allowed a go to with a specialist physician.
The response triggered Ms. Butina’s taunting commentary on-line that was then delivered in individual on the jail.
“A brand new strategy for Navalny, a starvation strike,” Ms. Butina wrote on Telegram, the messaging service, on Wednesday. “It’s as previous because the world.”
She wrote that his intent was to attract consideration overseas and that others in Russian prisons had tried this earlier than. “Look what little poor ones we’re,” she wrote of what starvation strikers meant to convey.
“Lyosha, are you a person or not?” she wrote, referring to Mr. Navalny by a diminutive of his first identify. “I’m uninterested in the complaining. He’s in among the best penal colonies in Russia.”
Ms. Butina in posts on Friday stated Mr. Navalny, in her view, seemed hale and hearty. She stated the warden informed her Mr. Navalny was refusing medical care from jail docs.
“Navalny walks completely usually,” she wrote after the go to. “He doesn’t appear like an individual ‘not allowed to sleep,’ and I can decide from my time in jail in the united statesA.”
In describing their encounter, Ms. Butina wrote that Mr. Navalny had been standing in a line of prisoners. When he noticed her, she wrote, he “instantly hurled insults.” She additionally wrote that she requested him: “Are you aware the distinction between a jail and a resort?”
Ms. Butina served a portion of her sentence on the Federal Correctional Establishment in Tallahassee, Fla. In a memoir printed after her return to Russia, Ms. Butina wrote she had been horrified to satisfy transgender individuals within the penitentiary and had as soon as been despatched to solitary confinement.
Mr. Navalny’s model of the encounter with Ms. Butina, in line with his Telegram channel’s posting, differed on what was stated, however at the least appeared constant together with her assertion that it was an insult-fueled trade.
Mr. Navalny “for quarter-hour lectured her earlier than a line of convicts, calling her a parasite and servant of the federal government of thieves,” in line with the posting.
Exactly how this data was obtained and posted to his Telegram channel isn’t clear. Mr. Navalny has conveyed messages by way of attorneys prior to now that others publish beneath his identify.
RT, the tv channel previously referred to as Russia At present that Mr. Navalny’s aides stated had dispatched Ms. Butina to his jail, didn’t reply to a question in regards to the go to.