Russian opponent Alexei Navalni, 44, imprisoned since January, announced on Wednesday (31) that he had gone on a hunger strike until he received adequate medical treatment for severe back pain and to the legs.
Last week, he reported that officials at the IK-2 penal colony, where he is being held, 100 km from Moscow, had refused access to adequate medical treatment and adopted a practice comparable to torture. The allegations were made in two appeals to authorities sent by their lawyers.
This time, in a handwritten letter to the head of the penal colony, posted on social media by his team, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s main opponent said requests from a doctor of his choosing to examine him and appropriate remedies had been ignored.
“I really need a doctor. Every prisoner has the right [por lei] to invite a specialist to examine you and consult you, “he wrote in the letter.” I demand that a doctor see me and, until that happens, I declare a hunger strike. “
The penal colony did not respond to requests for comment. After examining Navalni last week, those responsible for the arrest said his condition was stable and satisfactory.
The Kremlin said it was not monitoring the activist’s state of health as the issue fell to the prison authorities. Navalni complains of a sharp pain in his back, which he says spread first to his right leg and then to his left. He said he was given anti-inflammatory pills and ointment – but said it wasn’t enough.
Doctors published an open letter on Sunday (28) demanding that the activist receive adequate care. “We fear the worst. Leave a patient in this state […] it can lead to serious consequences, in particular an irreversible loss, total or partial, of the functions of the lower limbs ”, specifies the text.
Navalni was arrested on his return to Russia, after several months in Germany, where he was recovering from a poisoning he attributes to Russian authorities. He is formally accused of violating the conditions of his probation by leaving the country, even though the release occurred for medical reasons – he was in a coma. The opponent received a commutation sentence for commuted fraud in 2014, in an action he describes as judicial harassment.
Although nominally independent, the Russian judiciary is aligned with the Kremlin. The country’s justice system upheld the activist’s conviction last month. In total, he was sentenced to three and a half years in prison, of which he has already served ten months at home.
Several Western countries, in addition to the European Court of Human Rights, have called on Russia to release Navalni, a reaction Moscow has called unacceptable interference in internal affairs.
The United States has also announced sanctions, including a travel ban in the country and the freezing of assets abroad by officials accused of plotting the arrest of the activist. Navalni’s arrest also provoked internal reactions, with large protests, to which the authorities responded with more than 11,000 arrests.
Opponent’s allies last week announced plans to lead what they hope will be the largest anti-Kremlin protest in modern Russian history in the coming months. Authorities said such acts were illegal.