Alexei Navalny, who is languishing in a remote Arctic Circle jail, says he is now forced to wake up to the Russian national anthem followed by a pop song by a pro-Vladimir Putin singer every day at 5am.
The fierce Kremlin critic has been locked away in the IK-3 penal colony in Kharp in the Yamal-Nenets region, about 1,900km (1,200 miles) northeast of Moscow.
Mr Navalny, 47, has kept up an unceasing campaign against the Kremlin from behind bars. He says he has been poisoned, handed a long prison term in one of Russia’s toughest prisons on trumped-up charges aimed at keeping him out of politics, and locked up in a cell where he can only pace back and forth for 11 steps.
On top of all this, he now has to listen to a pro-Putin pop song by Yaroslav Dronov, who performs under the stage name Shaman, daily at the crack of dawn.
“The singer Shaman appeared on stage when I was already imprisoned, so I could neither see nor listen to his music. But I know that he is now Putin’s main singer. And he has the most popular song: ‘I’m Russian’,” Mr Navalny said on X, formerly known as Twitter.
“Everyone knows it, parodies of it are recorded, and so on. Of course, I was certainly curious to listen, but where in the prison I could do it? And then I was taken to Yamal.
“And here, every day at 5 o’clock in the morning, we hear the command: ‘Wake up!’, followed by the Russian national anthem. Immediately afterward, the country’s second most important song is played – I’m Russian by Shaman,” he wrote.
The chorus of the song, whose singer is frequently invited to attend state events, is: “I’m Russian. I’ll fight to the end/ I’m Russian, my father’s blood flows in me, hey-hey/ I’m Russian and I’m lucky with this fact/ I’m Russian to spite the whole world.”
Later, Mr Navalny’s spokesperson said the opposition leader had been placed in solitary confinement for 10 days for “incorrectly introducing himself” to a guard.
Kira Yarmysh said on X late on Monday that it was the 25th time Mr Navalny had been placed in solitary confinement and that he had spent 283 days in such conditions.
Mr Navalny, a former lawyer, rose to prominence more than a decade ago by lampooning Mr Putin’s elite and voicing allegations of vast corruption. He is serving a 19-year sentence on charges of extremism – a sentence that has been decried by much of the international community.
In his social media posts, Mr Navalny added: “So imagine the picture: Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District. Polar night. Special-regime colony’s hut for violators.
“A prisoner Alexey Navalny, who is sentenced to 19 years in prison, and whom Kremlin propaganda has been endlessly [rinsing] for years because he participated in Russian rallies, is exercising to the song ‘I’m Russian’, which he is being given as an educational activity for correctional purposes.
“To be honest, I’m still not sure that I correctly understand what post-irony and meta-irony are. But if that’s not it, what is it?” Mr Navalny wrote, adding a wink emoji to his post.
This is not the first time Mr Navalny has joked darkly about conditions in prison. Reappearing after a three-week-long disappearance in December, during which he was moved to his new Arctic prison, Mr Navalny was cracking jokes with a judge to show that the Kremlin could not break him.
Mr Navalny’s team said the arduous 1,200-mile journey to the brutal prison takes three weeks by road and rail.
The activist drew laughter from the judge during his recent court appearance via video link, when he asked if a party had been thrown at the Melekhovo facility east of Moscow, where he had previously been held, to celebrate his departure – and whether it had included karaoke.
He also asked if the prison had held a naked party – a reference to a gathering of scantily clad celebrities in Moscow last month that has been heavily criticised by the country’s conservative media.
Mr Navalny has been behind bars since January 2021, when he returned to Moscow after recuperating in Germany from nerve-agent poisoning, which he said had been carried out by the Kremlin.