Young Ukrainian seized in Russian-occupied Mariupol because of her name faces huge sentence on fake terrorism charges
A year after Russia seized Iryna Navalna and almost certainly tortured out a televised ‘confession’, the 25-year-old Ukrainian to Russia’s notorious ‘list of terrorists and extremists’ The move almost certainly means that Russia plans to continue with ‘terrorism’ charges based solely on ‘testimony’ taped when the young woman was held incommunicado, doubtless without a lawyer present.
Oleksandra Smoliar is convinced that her daughter was seized because of the name that she shares with the famous Russian politician and political prisoner. She points to the treatment that Iryna received when she and her mother first left Mariupol, and the fixation with her name in Russian reports. It is possible that there are other reasons. There could, equally, be none, and Russia just ‘needed a Ukrainian’ to fabricate a ‘terrorism plot’ on the eve of the fake referendum it staged to pretend justification for its claimed annexation of Ukrainian territory.
Navalna was not the name that Iryna received at birth, but the reason that she decided, when she was 21, to formally adopt the surname had nothing at all to do with Alexei Navalny. She took the step merely for the sake of her maternal grandfather who had had only daughters.
Iryna’s family are from Mariupol and she and her mother were living there when Russia began its full-scale invasion and relentless attacks on the city. Iryna’s stepfather was taken prisoner in May 2022 from the besieged Azovstal Steelworks.
Russia systematically blocked any evacuation of civilians from Mariupol, and the only way of getting out was via occupied Donetsk oblast into Russia. Oleksandra managed to pay somebody to take her and her daughter on this route, in order to then get back to government-controlled Ukraine through the Baltic Republics and Poland. Both of them needed to undergo Russia’s illegal ‘filtration’, with Iryna Navalna doing this first, on 9 May 2022. She was made to stand, with her face to the wall and her hands raised, while they interrogated her with a pistol at her head. Having seen her surname, one of the Russians asked “Who wants to talk with Navalny’s daughter? Who wants to see her?” They demanded to know if she had friends in Ukraine’s Azov regiment, and what their names were. She was held by the Russians for two and a half hours, but was eventually released, and allowed to leave for Russia, from where she crossed into Lithuania, then Poland, making her way back to Ukraine.
Her mother got out separately, without major problems, and, after returning to Ukraine, they settled in the Zhytomyr oblast.
Tragically, Iryna went back in August that year, to spend time with her paternal grandmother who was there alone, and kept ringing, complaining how hard everything was, and pleading with iryna to come and visit her. Oleksandra had tried to stop her daughter, rightly assuming that the latter would be in danger. Unfortunately, Iryna assumed that, since she had got through once, there would be no problem. She planned to visit for just a few weeks, spend time with her grandmother, collect some things from their apartment, and also try to track down their cats, who had disappeared during the bombing.
Oleksandra has explained that Iryna did reach Mariupol and even found a bike which she used to travel around the devastated city, trying to find the cats and also, seemingly, taking photographs of the bombed buildings.
All contact was lost with her on 27 September. In the evening of that day, the Russian state-controlled RIA Novovsti posted on which the young woman was shown providing a ‘confession’ that has been repeated, with very few variations, on several occasions. She is supposed to have been paid money by someone from Ukraine’s Security Service [SBU] to collect a package, which she understood to be an explosive device, to take it to the Prymorsky district administration, and then return later and press a device in order to detonate it. This, it was asserted, had been with the aim of disrupting Russia’s fake ‘referendum on joining the Russian Federation’.
Navalna is claimed to have ‘confessed and repented’, and to be facing ‘charges’ laid by Russia’s proxy ‘Donetsk people’s republic’, but under Russia’s criminal code )Articles 30 and 205.). Iryna Navalna has been held ever since at the SIZO [remand prison] in occupied Donetsk and is, unfortunately, likely to receive a long sentence, handed down by an illegitimate ‘court’ after an imitation ‘trial’. Russia is refusing access to international observers and independent media, and there is no way of verifying any specific allegation. The claims to have ‘thwarted a terrorist attack’, with the only evidence provided by a supported confession reeled off by a person held incommunicado have, however, been used by Russia and its proxies in occupied Donbas since 2014. All of those who have later been released after such videoed ‘confessions’ have confirmed that they were obtained through torture, as well, very often, as threats against the victim’s family.
There are no grounds for believing Iryna Navalna to not be one of these victims.