Kremlin Opponent Navalny Stops Hunger Strike in 24th Day
(Bloomberg) -- Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny said he’s ending a 24-day hunger strike that had fueled tensions with the West and sparked concern the Kremlin’s most prominent critic could die in prison.
“I am starting to exit the hunger strike,” Navalny said on his Instagram account on Friday. “According to the rules, it will take the same 24 days, and they say, it will be even harder.”
Navalny’s plight was a major source of tension between the Kremlin and the West, with the White House warning of unspecified consequences if he dies. The 44-year-old opposition politician made the decision to stop his protest action after getting access to outside doctors for his deteriorating health, a demand he made when he stopped eating on March 31.
Tens of thousands of people joined protests in cities around Russia this week to demand medical care for Navalny in the biggest unsanctioned demonstrations since his sentencing in February. The police detained over 1,900 people around Russia at the rallies, according to monitoring group OVD-Info.
The protests were what drove the authorities to seek an outside exam for Navalny and then provide the results to his medical team, his ally Leonid Volkov wrote on Twitter.
The Kremlin’s human rights ombudsman, Tatiana Moskalkova, said Wednesday that Navalny’s life isn’t at risk and that he’s getting all necessary care including an intravenous drip.
Navalny continued to post upbeat messages on Instagram even as his health worsened, joking this week that he looks like a skeleton who could be used to scare children into finishing their meals. Authorities had transferred him to a prison hospital in Vladimir, a city 180 kilometers (110 miles) east of Moscow, on April 18.
Navalny returned to Russia in January after months of treatment in Germany following a nerve-agent poisoning he and Western governments blame on the Kremlin. He was jailed on arrival for breaking the terms of a suspended sentence given for an earlier criminal conviction. Russia denies responsibility for the attack and says his case isn’t political.
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