Navalny compares Russian prison to Chinese labor camp

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny compared being in prison in Russia to a Chinese labor camp.

Navalny made the comparison in an interview with The New York Times published Wednesday, his first since being arrested in January.

Navalny is serving a 2 1/2-year prison sentence for violating parole while recovering from an attempted poisoning. He was arrested in January after traveling back to Russia from Germany, where he was recovering from the attempt.

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The Times noted that during his first weeks in prison, Navalny’s limbs numbed, and he went on a 24-day hunger strike.

Speaking about his time in prison, the opposition leader told the Times that the days of heavy labor for political prisoners were over.

“You might imagine tattooed muscle men with steel teeth carrying on with knife fights to take the best cot by the window,” Navalny said. “You need to imagine something like a Chinese labor camp, where everybody marches in a line and where video cameras are hung everywhere. There is constant control and a culture of snitching.”

Navalny further described the experience as “psychological violence,” and detailed five daily sessions of watching television. He further said that he had not been assaulted by other inmates, and actually described having “fun” with them.

“When we cook, I always remember the classic scene from ‘Goodfellas’ when the mafia bosses cook pasta in a prison cell,” Navalny said. “Unfortunately, we don’t have such a cool pot, and pasta is forbidden. Still, it’s fun.”

Aside from his prison experience, Navalny also weighed in on Russia’s political future, saying the Putin regime was a “historical accident, not an inevitability.”

“Sooner or later, this mistake will be fixed, and Russia will move on to a democratic, European path of development. Simply because that is what the people want,” Navalny said.

Russia unveiled new charges against Navalny earlier this month, alleging that his foundation encouraged citizens to flout coronavirus guidelines to attend protests in January. The charges are punishable by up to three years in prison.