Ruslan Shaveddinov, 23, who went missing on Monday was taken to the remote Novaya Zemlya archipelago located in the Arctic Ocean, Russia's prominent opposition leader Alexei Navalny said on Wednesday. Shaveddinov worked as Navalny's project manager and a presenter at his YouTube channel.

Shaveddinov taken to the Arctic

Ruslan Shaveddinov
Ruslan Shaveddinov Instagram

Shaveddinov went missing on Monday, his Moscow home was open and his SIM card was disabled. He appeared, the next day, at a secret air defence base on the remote Novaya Zemlya archipelago in the Arctic Ocean.

The same day, Alexei Navalny, the vociferous Putin critic, for whom Shaveddinov worked, took to Twitter. "Military service has turned into a tool of imprisonment," Navalny tweeted alongside a video of at least half a dozen men in uniforms accompanying Shaveddinov into a van. Navalny termed Shaveddinov's forceful recruitment as "kidnapping".

Novaya Zemlya archipelago is sparsely populated and was used by the Soviet Union to conduct nuclear tests. According to Navalny, Shaveddinov borrowed a phone from someone and called on Wednesday and said that he had been taken to Novaya Zemlya. He further told that he was under constant supervision, with a man assigned to accompany him everywhere including the toilet.

Russian men of ages between 18 and 27 have to serve at least a year in military service, but can be exempted on medical and other grounds. The Russian military insisted that Shaveddinov had been dodging the draft for a long time, AFP reported. But Navalny held that Shaveddinov had applied for exemption from military service, on medical grounds, the application of which was rejected on Monday, the same day he went missing.

Contracting space for dissent

Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin. (File Photo: IANS) IANS

Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that he did not know whether Shaveddinov was dodging conscription. "If he had and was drafted in this manner then everything was done in strict accordance with the law".

Meanwhile, opposition supporters staged protests in Moscow, outside army headquarters, calling for the release of Shaveddinov.