Putin Foe Navalny Continues Hunger Strike in Prison Hospital

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny is pressing on with a hunger strike after authorities moved him to a prison hospital, one of his lawyers said, as the U.S. threatened the Kremlin with unspecified “consequences” if he dies.

Navalny was offered glucose by prison staff but refused it, Aleksey Lipster said by phone after visiting him briefly with colleagues. “His hunger strike continues,” Lipster said.

The 44-year-old Kremlin critic has been on hunger strike for nearly three weeks to demand outside medical care for acute back and leg pains suffered since his imprisonment earlier this year. He’s in satisfactory condition and agreed to “vitamin therapy” after being transferred to the hospital, the local branch of the Federal Penitentiary Service said in a website statement.

“They’re still not allowing civilian doctors to see him,” Leonid Volkov, a top Navalny ally, said Monday on Telegram.

Navalny’s condition has become the latest flashpoint between Russia and the West that includes tensions over Ukraine and an espionage scandal in the Czech Republic. The U.S. and Europe are pressing President Vladimir Putin to ensure proper medical care for Navalny, after his aides warned at the weekend that he may be only days from death.

Neither Washington nor Moscow mentioned Navalny in statements released after U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and his Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev held phone talks Monday. Both said they discussed prospects for a summit between Putin and President Joe Biden. The two advisers discussed Navalny’s situation at length, according to a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Navalny must be treated humanely and there will be consequences if he dies, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at a briefing Monday.

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.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called for the prisoner’s “immediate and unconditional release.” Navalny’s fate is in Putin’s hands, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Sunday.

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, rejected the U.S. and European expressions of alarm, saying “the health of prisoners and convicts on Russian territory can’t and shouldn’t be a matter of their interest.” He warned Navalny supporters against participating in “illegal” protests.

The Penitentiary Service said a commission of doctors had made the decision to transfer Navalny to the hospital at the high-security IK-3 prison in the city of Vladimir, about 190 kilometers (118 miles) from Moscow, “which specializes in dynamic observation of such patients.”

Navalny has been imprisoned since March 11 at another camp in the area for breaking parole rules while recuperating in Germany from a near-fatal poisoning in Siberia that he and Western governments blame on the Kremlin. Russian authorities deny any involvement.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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