In a move that sounds like something from the playbook of the Czars or like the purges of Stalin when “enemies of the state” were exiled to Siberia, the government of Vladimir Putin has dusted off those tactics. Ruslan Shaveddinov a close ally of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, was arrested, forcibly conscripted in the army and sent off to a remote military base in the Arctic. 

Shaveddinov, 28, has been fighting conscription in the military on medical grounds. Military service in Russia is compulsory for one year for all men between the ages of 18 and 27 unless they are exempt due to medical or other grounds. 

Colonel Maxim Loktev, Moscow’s deputy military commissioner, told the Russian news agency Tass that Shaveddinov had long evaded military service and had been conscripted legally. A Moscow court rejected his appeal against conscription and on Monday, FSB agents broke down the door to his apartment, arrested him and promptly sent him to a Russian base in the Arctic, in the remote Novaya Zemlya archipelago, 1,240 miles north of Moscow. 

“Shaveddinov has left with a group of conscripts to the location of his military service,” which, according to the Russian military: “has been determined in strict compliance with the results of his medical tests and professional skills.” There he was assigned to the 33rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Regiment, whose headquarters is in Rogachovo, Novaya Zemlya.

Shaveddinov had been working as a project manager for opposition leader Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) when he was forcibly conscripted. He had served as the Press Secretary for Navalny when the latter ran for president against Putin. He also worked as a presenter for Navalny’s Live YouTube channel. 

Ruslan Shaveddinov (Twitter)

“He’s a genuine political prisoner or, if you wish, he has been sent into exile,”  Navalny said. He added that FBK was going to challenge his conscription, stating that Shaveddinov was kidnapped and is being detained illegally.