Russian investigators detained three lawyers associated with Alexei Navalny, heightening concerns about his isolation and lack of legal support, according to Navalny’s allies. The lawyers, Vadim Kobzev, Igor Sergunin, and Alexei Liptser, are being investigated for alleged membership in an “extremist group.” A Moscow court subsequently ordered their detention until December 13, as seen in a video released by the court.
These detentions coincide with Navalny’s imminent transfer from the current penal colony to a stricter “special regime” facility due to his conviction on new “extremist” activity charges. Navalny, a prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin, received an additional 19-year sentence on top of the 11 and a half years he was already serving.
Vadim Kobzev, one of the detained lawyers, was scheduled to appear alongside Navalny in a lawsuit against the IK-6 penal colony, where Navalny is presently incarcerated, located 235 km (145 miles) east of Moscow. Navalny expressed his dismay in court, comparing the situation to the persecution of activists and their lawyers during Soviet times.
Navalny has spent almost three years in prison since his arrest upon returning from Germany, where he received treatment after being poisoned with a nerve agent in Siberia. The Kremlin denies involvement in his poisoning and remains silent on his case. Despite his imprisonment, Navalny has used his lawyers to communicate through social media and file lawsuits against the prison authorities, highlighting his mistreatment in solitary confinement for minor infractions.
Navalny’s associate, Leonid Volkov, emphasized that the lawyers could face up to six years in prison if found guilty, solely for their association with Navalny. Volkov described these detentions as acts of intimidation aimed at further isolating Navalny and preventing his legal representation. He voiced concerns that if the lawyers are imprisoned, they wouldn’t be able to visit Navalny in the new penal colony, leaving his whereabouts unknown—an alarming prospect for his allies.
The situation underscores the challenges faced by political dissidents and their legal representatives in Russia, raising international concerns about the state of the rule of law in the country.