MOSCOW – Imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny released excerpts of his correspondence with prison administrators Friday, detailing his sarcastic demands for things like a bottle of moonshine, a balalaika and even a kangaroo. His requests were denied.
Responses from prison officials, posted on his social media account apparently by his team, came after he has spent almost 180 days in solitary confinement since last summer at Penal Colony No. 6 in the Vladimir region east of Moscow.
Navalny, 46, is serving a nine-year sentence after being convicted of fraud and contempt of court — charges he says were trumped up for his efforts to expose official corruption and organize anti-Kremlin protests. He was arrested in January 2021 upon returning to Moscow after recuperating in Germany from nerve-agent poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin.
“When you are sitting in a punishment isolation cell and have little entertainment, you can have fun with correspondence with the administration,” wrote Navalny.
Among his denied requests: a megaphone to be given to the prisoner in a nearby cell “so he can yell even louder,” and to award another inmate who “killed a man with his bare hands” with the highest rank in karate.
He also was turned down for his requests of moonshine, tobacco for rolling cigarettes and the balalaika. But Navalny expressed particular mock outrage at the administrators’ refusal to allow him to keep a kangaroo in his cell. The politician said inmates can to have a pet if the prison administration allows it.
“I will continue to fight for my inalienable right to own a kangaroo,” Navalny wrote sarcastically in his social media post.
Navalny will mark his 47th birthday on Sunday, and there have been calls by his team for protests to support him.
A Moscow court has set a June 6 date for a hearing for a new trial for Navalny on a charge of extremism, which could keep him in prison for 30 years. He also said an investigator told him that he also would face a separate military court trial on terrorism charges that potentially carry a life sentence.
The new charges come as Russian authorities are conducting an intensified crackdown on dissent amid the fighting in Ukraine, which Navalny has harshly criticized.
Associated Press writer Elise Morton in London contributed.