Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny says he has started a hunger strike to protest the failure of authorities to provide proper treatment for his back and leg pains

Davies

Alexei Navalny.

Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny says he has started a hunger strike to protest the failure of authorities to provide proper treatment for his back and leg pains.
Key points:

Alexei Navalny was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison for violating the terms of his probation
He was arrested in January upon his return from Germany, where he spent months recovering from a nerve-agent poisoning
Mr Navalny’s poisoning and conviction have further strained Russia’s ties with the US and the EU

In a Russian-language statement posted on Instagram, Mr Navalny complained about the refusal of prison officials to give him the right medicines and to allow his doctor to visit him behind bars.

He also protested the hourly checks a guard makes on him at night, saying they amount to sleep deprivation torture.

The 44-year-old, who is President Vladimir Putin’s most outspoken domestic opponent, was arrested in January upon his return from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin.

Russian authorities have rejected the accusation.

Mr Navalny’s poisoning and conviction have further strained Russia’s ties with the United States and the European Union, which sank to post-Cold War lows after Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea, its meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and hacking attacks.

His arrest fuelled a series of protests that drew tens of thousands across Russia.

A woman wears a facemask that says "free Navalny" on it, she is holding a Russian flag.A woman wears a facemask that says “free Navalny” on it, she is holding a Russian flag.
A protester during a demonstration in support of Mr Navalny.(

Reuters: Ringo Chiu
)

Authorities detained about 11,000 people, many of whom were fined or given jail terms of up to two weeks.

Mr Navalny said the August poisoning made him wonder about the cause of his current ailments.

He said he had no choice but to start a hunger strike because his physical condition has worsened, with back pains having spread to his right leg and numbness in his left leg.

“What else could I do?” he wrote in Russian.

Last month, Mr Navalny was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison for violating the terms of his probation during convalescence in Germany.

A man in a court dock stands with hands in his pockets as guards look on and media take photographs.A man in a court dock stands with hands in his pockets as guards look on and media take photographs.
Mr Navalny was moved this month from a Moscow jail to a penal colony in Pokrov.(

AP: Alexander Zemlianichenko
)

The sentence stems from a 2014 embezzlement conviction that Mr Navalny has rejected as fabricated — and which the European Сourt of Human Rights has ruled to be unlawful.

Mr Navalny was moved this month from a Moscow jail to a penal colony in Pokrov in the Vladimir region, 85 kilometres east of the Russian capital.

The facility, called IK-2, stands out among Russian penitentiaries for its particularly strict inmate routines, which include standing to attention for hours.

Mr Navalny’s Instagram also had a picture of a letter to the prison chief, dated Wednesday, April 31, in which he announced the hunger strike.

“Every convict has the right to invite a specialist for a check and consultation,” he wrote.

“So I demand to let a doctor see me and declare a hunger strike until it happens.

“Given a recent attempt by the FSB operatives to kill me with chemical weapons, which state-controlled medics cast as a ‘metaboliс problem,’ I’m haunted by vague doubts about the cause of my illness and recovery prospects.”

Russia’s prison service said last week that Mr Navalny had undergone medical check-ups and described his condition as “stable and satisfactory.”

In a statement that followed his declaration of a hunger strike, it claimed that Mr Navalny was being given “all the necessary medical assistance in accordance with his current health indicators.”

But Mr Navalny has complained that authorities only gave him basic painkiller pills and ointment for his back and legs while refusing to accept medications prescribed earlier by his doctor, or to share the diagnosis from his examination.
‘Friendly concentration camp’

Alexei Navalny sits in a hospital bed in a medical gown surrounded by three people in protective gowns, masks and hair nets
Alexei Navalny sits in a hospital bed in a medical gown surrounded by three people in protective gowns, masks and hair netsMr Navalny spent five months in Germany recovering from a nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin.(

Supplied/Instagram
)

In a note earlier this month, Mr Navalny described his prison as a “friendly concentration camp”.

He said he hadn’t seen “even a hint of violence” there but lived under controls that he compared to those described in George Orwell’s novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four”.

Earlier this week, he said he already had received six reprimands — warnings that could lead to solitary confinement — for offenses such as getting up 10 minutes before the wake-up call and refusing to watch a video lecture that he called “idiotic”.

Mr Navalny, whom prison authorities had earlier marked as a flight risk, said he was subject to particularly close oversight, including a guard waking him up every hour at night and filming him to demonstrate he is in the required place.

The prison service insisted that Mr Navalny has been treated in strict conformity with the law and the night checks are part of a regular routine that “don’t disrupt convicts’ rest”.

During a video call with Mr Putin on Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron emphasised the need for Russia to protect Mr Navalny’s health and to respect his rights in compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights, according to Mr Macron’s office.

The Kremlin said in its readout of the call that Mr Putin offered an “objective explanation” in response to questions Ms Merkel and Mr Macron asked.

Russian officials have rejected US and EU demands to free Mr Navalny and to stop a police crackdown on his supporters.

Mr Navalny’s associates have urged Russians to sign up for the next protest to demand his release, promising to set a date for the demonstration when the number of people willing to take part reaches at least 500,000 nationwide.

More than 360,000 have registered since a dedicated website opened on March 23.

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