Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny said on Wednesday that the forcible military conscription of one of his allies to a remote air base in the Arctic amounted to kidnapping and illegal imprisonment.
Ruslan Shaveddinov, a project manager at Mr. Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, was detained at his Moscow flat on Monday after the door was broken down, the electricity cut and the SIM card on his mobile phone remotely disabled.
On Tuesday evening, Mr. Shaveddinov resurfaced at a remote military base on Novaya Zemlya, a freezing archipelago in the Arctic Ocean some 2,000 kilometres north of Moscow and the location of a missile air defence unit.
Mr. Navalny said Mr. Shaveddinov, who had earlier tried to appeal his conscription on medical grounds, had managed to make one phone call on Wednesday using someone else’s phone.
He said he had been told he would not be allowed to have a mobile phone during his one year of military service and said another soldier had been assigned to accompany him at all times to watch what he was doing.
Mr. Navalny said lawyers for mr. Shaveddinov would be challenging his conscription and would argue he had been illegally kidnapped and imprisoned.
“Serving in the army has simply turned into a way of locking people up,” Mr. Navalny wrote on social media.
Opposition activists likened Mr. Shaveddinov’s treatment to the way in which Tsarist Russia and the former Soviet Union sent political opponents to far-off corners of what is the world’s largest country by territory.
Mr. Shaveddinov was part of Mr. Navalny’s unsuccessful campaign to run against Vladimir Putin for the presidency in 2018, worked as a TV presenter for Mr. Navalny’s online channel and helped manage projects at Mr. Navalny’s foundation, which specializes in publishing corruption investigations into state officials and managers.
Valentina Melnikova, head of the Union of Soldiers’ Mothers’ Committees, said she had serious doubts about the way Mr. Shaveddinov had been treated.
“This is definitely illegal,” she said.
But Colonel Maxim Loktev, the deputy military commissar for Moscow, told the TASS news agency that Mr. Shaveddinov had dodged mandatory conscription for a long time and that a court on Monday had ruled his conscription legal.
One year’s military service is mandatory in Russia for all male citizens aged between the ages of 18 to 27, with some narrow exceptions.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Mr. Shaveddinov’s treatment looked legal if he’d been a draft dodger.
“If he evaded conscription, he broke the relevant law of the Russian Federation,” Mr. Peskov said. “If he dodged conscription and was conscripted in this way, then everything was done strictly in accordance with the law.”
Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.