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EDWARD LUCAS: Will Alexei Navalny be Russia’s Mandela?

At 6am the blaring sound of the national anthem wakes Alexei Navalny in his prison bunk. 

Russia’s best-known political prisoner dons an ill-fitting black uniform and begins a day designed, like every moment of his nine-year sentence, to inflict exhaustion and humiliation.

The worst thing about jail, says his loyal aide Kira Yarmysh, is that ‘everyone there has to be occupied all day long so you don’t have any free time’. A fiercely intelligent, eloquent lawyer, Navalny’s days are filled with menial tasks — sewing and shovelling snow.

A small plastic sign on his bunk designates him as a terrorist, liable to indoctrinate other prisoners and forbidden to socialise with them. The routine in what he ironically calls a ‘friendly concentration camp’ recalls the solitary…


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