The answer? Instead of sending an independent human rights observer or doctor to visit Navalny in prison, the Kremlin sent Maria Butina, a Russian spy and former American detainee. Now a pro-Kremlin activist, Butina pleaded guilty in U.S. court in 2018 to acting as a Russian agent while infiltrating NRA and Republican Party political circles. Butina reported what she heard from other inmates at the penal colony, called IK-2, complaining not about the conditions in the prison, but from Navalny himself. Butina said other inmates looked down on Navalny for “lying all day like a master” and that he “doesn’t clean up after himself”. She insisted that Navalny lived in better conditions than those she had endured in an American prison. “My recommendation to Aleksey: if you have committed a crime, be a man, serve your sentence.”
Butina also posted a video clip showing Navalny slowly pacing his barracks: “He’s walking! Oh, it’s magic! With a cup of coffee, ”she remarked. Mr. Navalny had said his legs were going numb from the back pain.
Butina said Navalny was rude to her during their roughly 20-minute conversation, accusing her of lying and stealing. A transcript of the alleged dialogue with Navalny was posted on Telegram, with Butina saying, “You know full well that if you don’t clean someone is cleaning for you. I have been in jail. I know this is becoming someone else’s responsibility. Navalny reportedly responded by telling her that she was lying a lot, and that “everything [she says] are endless lies, including your stories about the American prison.
Human rights defenders were in shock. “At a time when Navalny is clearly in need of professional medical help, they are sending a team from the national RT television channel to this very penal colony – this is an unacceptable situation,” Tanya Lokshina, director of the Russian program, told Human Rights Watch, at the Daily Beast. .
The rules do not prohibit an outside doctor from providing treatment in prison, Lokshina said, adding that his team was “aware of cases in which the Russian prison system provided civilian doctors to sick inmates.”
Butina’s comments horrified former IK-2 inmate Vladimir Pereverzin, who had spent seven years there, describing the experience as a total nightmare.
“It’s hard to imagine anything more cynical and deceptive,” Pereverzin, who was swept aside and jailed after a crackdown on an oil company ten years ago, told The Daily Beast. “No one is allowed to stay in bed in this prison. If she says he stays in bed all the time, it means he’s so sick the prison doctor has cleared him.
“The prison guards constantly humiliated me,” he added. “They fabricated reports against me, so just like Navalny, I had to go on a hunger strike. I even stabbed myself in the stomach and only then did they transfer me to a single cell which was a huge relief.
Opposition playwright and satirist Viktor Shenderovich said Butina’s visit symbolized a general tone of mockery in Kremlin politics.
“The government has decided to kill Navalny, to destroy him both physically and morally,” Shenderovich told the Daily Beast. “This is not a political decision but a moral question: Russia is currently divided between the obvious supporters of good and those who support the bad.”
Shenderovich described Butina’s ordeal as a “victory” for Kremlin loyalists.
“Many Kremlin supporters now laugh when they read Butina’s comments,” he said. “They are happy to see the Kremlin hanging around and mocking the supporters of the West and Navalny. But in fact, it is the humiliation of morality itself.