On August 25, the New York Times published an interview with Andrew Kramer with Alexei Navalny. The politician wrote a letter to the publication directly from IK-2 in the Vladimir region, where he is serving almost three years after returning to Russia. This is Navalny's first interview from prison. For the first time, he spoke about the methods of psychological influence that the colony administration applies to prisoners, and also shared his vision of the current political situation in Russia.
About the regime in the colony and forced viewing of TV programs
Navalny says he spends most of his time sweeping the parade ground in the yard or reading letters in the barracks. But most of all he is "driven crazy" by the compulsory viewing of television programs and "propaganda films": the administration of IK-2 forces the prisoners to look at the screen for eight hours a day, five days a week.
Officially, this is called the "awareness raising program" - it replaces manual labor for political prisoners.
“Reading, writing or doing anything else is prohibited,” the politician said in an interview with NYT. "You have to sit on a chair and watch TV." Those who fall asleep while watching the programs are awakened by the guards.
According to him, IK-2 does not look like a stereotypical colony with a criminal contingent. “You must be imagining pumped-up tattooed men with steel teeth fighting with knives for the best box by the window.
But it's better to imagine something like a Chinese labor camp, where everyone is marching in formation and where cameras are hanging from everywhere. Constant control and a culture of snitching, ”says Navalny.
The politician said that no one threatens him in the colony, but at the same time almost a third of the prisoners in IK-2 are so-called activists, that is, they cooperate with the administration of the colony. At the same time, Navalny gets along with other prisoners and cooks food with them. He compares the cooking process in prison to scenes from the movie Goodfellas.
Navalny describes the modern Russian prison for a political prisoner as "psychological violence" led by "mind-numbing" TV viewing sessions - the first session in the morning after breakfast and cleaning up terrorism, the second after lunch, and the third before lights out. Sometimes it is allowed to play chess or backgammon.
“We watch a movie about the Great Patriotic War or about how one day, 40 years ago, our athletes defeated the Americans or Canadians,” says the politician. These views allowed him "to understand more clearly the essence of the ideology of the Putin regime," Navalny admits.
“The present and the future are being replaced by the past - a truly heroic past, or an embellished past, or a completely fictitious past. All types of the past must be constantly in sight, in order to replace them with thoughts about the future and questions for the present, "Navalny expresses his vision of Putin's ideology.
In an interview with NYT, Navalny reiterated the idea that, in his opinion, sanctions should be imposed not against officials, but against the oligarchs who finance the current political system. Previously, the politician talked about this in a column for the Guardian.
Navalny is convinced that EU and US sanctions only harm ordinary Russians and alienate the "natural allies" of democracies within Russia. According to him, the sanctions should be aimed at the largest oligarchs associated with Vladimir Putin, and not at persons with "vague" functions, against whom they are being introduced now. Truly powerful people escaped restrictions by hiring "an army of lawyers, lobbyists and bankers who fight for the rights of the owners of dirty and bloody money to go unpunished," Navalny said.
About health after poisoning
After recovering from the symptoms of poisoning with the Novichok battle poison, Navalny was immediately sent to prison. He had numbness in his limbs. At the same time, he was not immediately able to obtain medical assistance and was forced to go on a hunger strike, in which he spent more than 20 days.
According to him, the neurological problems subsided as soon as the FSIN officers stopped waking him at night as "prone to escape."
“Now I understand why sleep deprivation is one of the secret services' favorite tortures. There are no traces left, but it is impossible to endure the torture, ”Navalny said.
About Russia without him
Navalny is convinced that the protests in Belarus in the summer of 2020 "scared" the Kremlin. He considers Smart Voting to be another "headache" for the authorities. In his opinion, it was the fear for the September elections to the State Duma that forced Russian officials to launch a campaign against moderate oppositionists, civil society and independent media like Meduza or Dozhd (publications included by the Ministry of Justice in the register of media outlets - foreign agents - ed.)
The current government in Russia can make enemies in the face of regional and local leaders, who "were thrown out of the political system together with us [Navalny's team]," the prisoner said.
The current system, Navalny says, lacks a pro-Kremlin centrist party to represent an emerging middle class of relatively wealthy people. In this he sees the weakness of Putin's Russia.
“The opposition in Russia does not exist because Alexei Navalny or someone else is in command from the headquarters. And because about 30% of the country's population - mostly educated, urban population - are not represented in the political system, ”explains Navalny.
“The Putin regime is a historical mistake, not an inevitability. This is the choice of the corrupt Yeltsin family. Sooner or later, this mistake will be corrected, and Russia will move on along the democratic, European path of development. Simply because people want it, ”he concluded.