Navalny sends ‘Arctic hugs and polar greetings’ from Siberian prison in New Year’s Eve message

FILE PHOTO: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is seen on a screen via video link from a penal colony in the Vladimir Region during a hearing at the Basmanny district court in Moscow, Russia April 26, 2023.

Alexei Navalny, pictured in April, has released a New Year’s Eve message from a prison in Siberia.Yulia Morozova/ReutersCNN — 

Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny says he doesn’t feel lonely and is in a “great” mood despite serving a lengthy prison sentence in Siberia, but he still misses interacting directly with his family and friends.

In a New Year’s Eve message shared by Navalny’s team on social media, Navalny is quoted as saying that this will be the third time “I have taken the traditional family New Year’s Eve photo with Photoshop.”

“I am trying to keep up with the times, and this time I asked an artificial intelligence to draw me. I hope it turned out something fantastic – I will not see the picture myself until the letter with it arrives on Yamal,” he joked.

Navalny’s team has said he is currently serving his prison sentence in the IK-3 penal colony in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Region of Russia.

“‘I miss you terribly’ is a kind of incorrect construction from the point of view of the Russian language. It’s better to say: ‘I miss you a lot’ or ‘I miss you so much,” he said. “But from my point of view, it is more accurate and correct. I miss my family terribly. Yulia, my children, my parents, my brother. I miss my friends, colleagues, our office, and my work. I miss you all terribly.”

However, Navalny went on to say that he doesn’t have “feelings of loneliness, abandonment, or isolation at all.”

“My mood is great and quite Christmassy. But there is no substitute for normal human communication in all its forms: from jokes at the New Year’s table to correspondence in Telegram and comments on Instagram and Twitter [currently known as X],” he said.

“Happy New Year to everyone,” Navalny said. “Arctic hugs and polar greetings to all. Love you all,” he concluded.

Navalny was located at a penal colony in Siberia earlier this month, two weeks after his team lost contact with him. Until then, he was imprisoned in a penal colony about 150 miles east of Moscow.

His disappearance, which came just days after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced he will run for re-election in March 2024, had sparked concerns for his well-being and safety.

The Russian opposition leader was sentenced to 19 years in prison in August after being found guilty of creating an extremist community, financing extremist activities and numerous other crimes. He was already serving sentences of 11-and-a-half years in a maximum security facility on fraud and other charges he denies.

Supporters of Navalny claim his arrest and incarceration are a politically motivated attempt to stifle his criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Navalny has posed one of the most serious threats to Putin’s legitimacy during his rule. He used his blog and social media to expose alleged corruption in the Kremlin as well as Russian business, and organized anti-government street protests.

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