Andrei Pivovarov, who was sentenced to four years in prison last year, was transferred from a detention center in southern Russia in December. In the following weeks, he occasionally wrote letters to his loved ones from detention centers in other Russian cities, stopovers on the way to his undisclosed final destination.
Tatyana Usmanova, Pivovarov’s partner, received the last such letter on Jan. 18. In it, the politician said he was in a detention center in St. Petersburg, his hometown, and was told that he soon would be sent to a penal colony in the nearby Karelia region.
“After that, silence,” Usmanova told The Associated Press.
Letters and official requests sent to prisons in Karelia and around St. Petersburg, as well as to Russia’s State Penitentiary Service, yielded no results, and Pivovarov’s whereabouts remain unknown, she said.
“We don’t know if he’s alive; if he’s feeling well; if he’s being tortured or abused somehow,” Usmanova said. “We don’t know anything. And it’s extremely hard.”
Amnesty International said in a statement Friday that Pivovarov’s situation amounted to an enforced disappearance.
The group’s Russia director, Natalia Zvyagina, called the Russian prison transfer system “dire,” and urged authorities to disclose Pivovarov’s location and release him. She said he is “serving an unfair sentence on politically motivated charges for a ‘crime’ that doesn’t exist in international law.”
Russia’s State Penitentiary Service did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the AP.
Russian prison transfers are notorious for taking a long time, sometimes weeks, during which there’s no access to prisoners, and information about their whereabouts is limited. Usmanova said convicts are transported in special train cars attached to ordinary trains and pass through detention centers in various, sometimes out-of-the-way regions.