The punishment cell container at the Old Town Square in Prague, Source: Team Navalny

Navalny’s isolation jail cell travels to European cities

Navalny’s isolation jail cell travels to European cities

The replica prison unit brings attention to the suffering of the Russian democracy activist

These days if you head to Prague’s Old Town Square, you’ll have the chance to experience some horror, apart from the historic charms surrounding the site – and this may prove revelatory and insightful. There a grey rectangular container (sized 3 by 2.5 metres) contains an exact replica of the isolation cell where Russian activist Alexey Navalny gets to spend most of the time while serving his sentence in a penal colony.

The spartan and oppressive atmosphere of the jail cell has been meticulously recreated in order to give visitors a brief chance to reflect on what it would be like to spend weeks or months on end trapped inside it. That is the reality of daily life for the Russian opposition leader who was arrested the moment he landed back in Moscow on 17 January 2021, after returning from a life-saving treatment in Germany. The attempt on Navalny’s life has been linked to Russia’s FSB service and was likely ordered by President Vladimir Putin.

Lack of freedom – packed in a box

The container has the word SHIZO (ШИЗО) painted on it. That refers to the Russian commonly abbreviated term for a punishment cell. Inside, the furnishings are bleak. Concrete floor and walls, a fold-up cot with a mattress that serves as a bed for the prisoner, a rusty sink and a toilet on the ground. A lattice vent serves as a window and there’s also a radiator as part of the heating system.

This is everything that Navalny sees when he regularly gets punished inside the penal colony for various made-up infractions. Activists are of the opinion that this is all designed to wear him down physically, mentally and spiritually, or even kill him.

"This is an important touch to the portrait of Putin's regime. And we also remind that there are hundreds of political prisoners in Russia who are in the same conditions," explained Leonid Volkov, one of Navalny's closest associates and an organizer of the initiative, as quoted by Current Time.

The installation is part of an international campaign to free the politician. Prague is the fifth city in which a replica of the cell has appeared, previously it has been seen by residents of The Hague, Düsseldorf, Paris and Berlin. After the Czech capital, there will be one in Madrid, Brussels, Vienna, Vilnius and other cities.



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