Kremlin Foe Navalny Extends Hunger Strike, Seeks Own Doctors

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Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny is continuing his hunger strike in a prison hospital where he hasn’t been allowed to see his own doctors, one of his lawyers said Tuesday.

“He’s very emaciated,” Olga Mikhailova told reporters outside the IK-3 prison where Navalny was moved Sunday after nearly three weeks of refusing food to protest authorities’ denial of his requests to be seen by outside specialists. Over the weekend, allies warned that he was near death after a blood test showed a dangerously elevated potassium level.

The 44-year-old activist’s plight has become a major source of tension between the Kremlin and the West. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday, “Right now we are extremely worried about Alexey Navalny, and the German government along with others is doing everything it can to make sure that he receives appropriate medical care.”

The White House has warned Moscow that it will face unspecified consequences if he dies.

The Kremlin has said his case is not a matter of concern for foreign governments. Prison authorities have said Navalny is in satisfactory condition and receiving adequate medical care.

In an Instagram post released after the lawyer’s comments Tuesday, Navalny thanks his supporters and joked that he looks like “a skeleton” who could be used to scare children into finishing their food. “It was pretty bad over the weekend,” he wrote, citing the searches and transit he endured when being moved to the prison hospital.

“After Novichok, potassium isn’t scary either,” he wrote, referring to the nerve agent used in the poisoning attempt on him in August that he and western governments blame on the Kremlin.

Mikhailova, the lawyer, said she and colleagues were allowed to see Navalny only briefly Tuesday and that he reiterated his demand to be seen by outside doctors. The possibility that authorities might begin force-feeding hasn’t been discussed, she said. He agreed to be given intravenous glucose, she said, but medical personnel had been unable Monday to place the IV.

Several outside doctors traveled to the prison in Vladimir, about 190 kilometers (118 miles) from Moscow, but weren’t allowed to see him Tuesday.

Navalny, the most prominent opponent of President Vladimir Putin, returned to Russia in January after nearly four months of treatment in Germany following the poison attack. He was jailed on arrival for breaking the terms of a suspended sentence given for an earlier criminal conviction. The Kremlin denies he was poisoned and says his case isn’t political.

The opposition leader’s supporters have called for protests across Russia on April 21, the day Putin is due to give his annual state-of-the-nation address, to press for his release.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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