Putin Foe Navalny Risks Death in Prison Hunger Strike, Ally Says
(Bloomberg) -- Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny risks dying in prison as he continues a hunger strike to press authorities into allowing him proper medical care, an ally said.
Navalny, 44, began refusing food on Wednesday to demand treatment for acute pain in his back that’s spreading to his legs, and an end to prison guards waking him each hour. He had already lost eight kilograms (18 pounds) in the three weeks before beginning the hunger strike, taking his weight to 85 kilograms, his supporters say.
“We understand that if he doesn’t stop his hunger strike, very soon this risks very serious consequences for Alexey, including a coma and death,” said Sergei Rybakov, deputy head of the Alliance of Doctors, a medical trade union supported by Navalny, in a video posted on YouTube. “They’re practically killing him in full sight of the world.”
The decision to declare the hunger strike marks an escalation in Navalny’s confrontation with President Vladimir Putin.
Putin’s most outspoken critic has been held at the notorious IK-2 prison about 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Moscow since March 11. He was imprisoned for breaching parole while recovering in Germany from a near-fatal nerve-agent poisoning in Siberia last year that he and Western governments have blamed on the Kremlin. Russian authorities deny involvement.
Navalny accuses prison officials of refusing him access to a specialist and medicines to treat his deteriorating condition. The prison service denied he’s being woken eight times a night, and said he’s getting the necessary medical assistance.
The doctors allied to Navalny say they’ll mount a protest outside the prison camp from Tuesday if authorities ignore his demands.
“It’s obvious to us doctors that his back problems are a consequence of his poisoning with a nerve agent,” said Anastasia Vasilyeva, the head of the Alliance of Doctors. Navalny spent several weeks in a coma after the August chemical attack.
Russia has rejected Western calls to free Navalny and brushed aside criticism of his treatment inside prison.
A pro-Kremlin media outlet, Life, published video footage on Friday of Navalny walking inside his prison barracks, accusing him of faking his illness.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.