Britain sanctions leaders of ‘Polar Wolf’ prison camp where Alexei Navalny died

Britain has sanctioned the leaders of the “Polar Wolf” prison camp in Russia where opposition leader Alexei Navalny died.

Days after Navalny’s death, the UK imposed travel bans and asset freezes on six individuals heading up the notoriously brutal FKU IK-3 prison camp.

Britain is the first country to impose measures in response to the politician’s death, which has been widely blamed on the Kremlin by Western countries.

Foreign secretary David Cameron said the Russian authorities “saw Navalny as a threat and tried repeatedly to silence him”.

“FSB operatives poisoned him with Novichok in 2020, they imprisoned him for peaceful political activities, and they sent him to an Arctic penal colony. No one should doubt the oppressive nature of the Russian system,” Lord Cameron added.

The former prime minister said those being sanctioned are “the most senior prison officials” responsible for his custody in IK-3.

“Those responsible for Navalny’s brutal treatment should be under no illusion – we will hold them accountable,” he said.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny died behind bars in Russia (AFP/Getty)
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny died behind bars in Russia (AFP/Getty)

Those being sanctioned are the prison’s head, Colonel Vadim Konstantinovich Kalinin, as well as deputies Sergey Nikolaevich Korzhov, Vasily Alexandrovich Vydrin, Vladimir Ivanovich Pilipchik, Aleksandr Vladimirovich Golyakov and Aleksandr Valerievich Obraztsov.

Rishi Sunak said the UK and its allies were considering all options to respond to the death of Navalny.

The prime minister told the Commons: “The whole House will join me in sending our deepest condolences to the family of Alexei Navalny. He died for a cause to which he dedicated his whole life, freedom.

“And to return home knowing that [Vladimir] Putin had already tried to have him killed was one of the most courageous acts of our time.

“Together with our allies, we are considering all options to hold Russia and Putin to account and this morning, we sanctioned those running the prison where Alexei Navalny’s body still lies.”

Sir Keir Starmer joined his political opponent in scrutinising Navalny’s death as he told MPs that Putin had stolen “the future and democracy of the Russian people”.

Speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions, the Labour leader said: “I’m sure the whole House will join in sharing our disgust at the death of Alexei Navalny who, as the prime minister said, died because of his efforts to expose the corruption of the Putin regime.

“It is a reminder that Putin has stolen not just the wealth but also the future and democracy of the Russian people.”

Britain has also called for Navalny’s body to be released to his family and for a “full and transparent” investigation into his killing.

The IK-3 penal colony, where Navalny was serving his jail term and where he died (Reuters)
The IK-3 penal colony, where Navalny was serving his jail term and where he died (Reuters)

The so-called “Polar Wolf” prison camp is beyond the Arctic Circle and inmates are reportedly subjected to harsh punishments such as being doused with water outdoors in the winter.

The UK government said Navalny was kept in solitary confinement for up to two weeks at a time while his condition had deteriorated in his three years in prison.

It also said that he had suffered from being denied medical treatment, as well as having to walk in -32C weather while being held in the prison.

Following the announcement of Navalny’s death on Friday, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office summoned a representative of the Russian government to make clear that the politician’s death must be investigated fully and transparently, and those in the Russian regime responsible held to account.

In response to the news that Navalny’s family is being denied access to his body, the UK is also calling for the Russian authorities to release it to them immediately.

Lord Cameron is attending the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting in Brazil on Wednesday and Thursday, where he will reportedly use the opportunity to call out Russia’s aggression and its global impact directly to Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.

Responding to the plans, Conservative MP for Rutland and Melton and chair of the foreign affairs committee Alicia Kearns said the UK needs to go “a lot further”.