Putin’s election plan, Navalny’s disappearance. It’s no coincidence, Russian former minister says

By Anna Chernova, Richard Quest, Anna Gorzkowska, Julia Puckette and Jessie Gretener, CNN

CNN  —  Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was again absent from two scheduled court hearings conducted via video link on Friday, according to a statement from his team.

Navalny’s team say the prominent politician has now been missing for 17 days, with his current whereabouts unknown.

“Today Alexey was supposed to have two trials. He was again not brought to the meetings. Navalny has never been hidden for so long,” Navalny’s team said in a Telegram post.

The unprecedented duration of Navalny’s absence from public view has sparked concerns for his well-being and safety.

Navalny’s aides have restated a plea for information, offering a cryptocurrency reward for complete and reliable details about his current location or status.

Asked repeatedly last week about Navalny’s absence, the Kremlin told reporters it had “neither the intention nor the ability to monitor the fate of prisoners and the process of their stay in the relevant institutions.”

‘No coincidence’

Vladimir Milov, a former Russian deputy energy minister and now an adviser to Navalny, told CNN’s Richard Quest that the timing of Navalny’s disappearance was “no coincidence,” noting the announcement by Russian President Vladimir Putin of his intention to run again in Russia’s elections in March 2024 – a move that could see him retain power until at least 2030.

“I think it is a deliberate tactic. It is no coincidence that Navalny disappeared exactly the moment when the so-called sham presidential elections were announced, and that Putin announced that he was going to be running again,” Milov said.

“Putin is really willing to show that he is going to enter the Kremlin for another term through intimidation, through repression, through pressure on society, and that is clearly a blackmail on all the opposition forces,” Milov added.

Prior to the interview, CNN reached out to the Russian Prison Service on Friday, requesting information about Navalny’s whereabouts.

Milov told Quest on Friday that despite his efforts to find Navalny’s whereabouts, “so far, there is no answer.”

Milov said his colleagues needed to send formal and written inquiries to detention institutions in Russia to request information on Navalny’s whereabouts, a process he described as a “tedious” and “time and effort consuming.”

“My colleagues have been bombarding all the known detention institutions in Russia to try and find Navalny across the country,” Milov said.

He added that they have received replies, with some detention centers confirming that Navalny was not present in those facilities.

He said other facilities hadn’t responded to the inquiries yet, adding that it was a “constant process.”

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