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Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny ends hunger strike

April 23, 2021

In a post on his official social media channels, Navalny thanked "good people" in Russia and around the world for their support.

Alexei Navalny appears on a screen set up at a hall of the Moscow Regional Court
Alexei Navalny had been warned by doctors to stop his hunger strike or risk deathImage: Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images

Imprisoned leading Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny said on Friday he would gradually end a hunger strike he started on March 31.

The 44-year-old said in an Instagram post he was ending the strike after getting medical attention and being warned by non-prison doctors that continuing it would be life-threatening. He said it would take 24 days to get completely back to normal eating.

Navalny, whose imprisonment has aroused outrage around the world, started his protest to demand proper medical care for leg and back pain. Supporters and doctors have been voicing fears in the past few weeks that his life could be in danger.

'We have made huge progress,' says Navalny

The outspoken Kremlin critic said that he had also taken the decision to end his hunger strike because some of his supporters had stopped eating in solidarity.

"Friends, my heart is full of love and gratitude for you, but I do not want for anybody to suffer because of me," he said.

Navalny said that although he was ending his hunger strike, he was still demanding that he be allowed to see an independent doctor to treat the numbness in his arms and legs. He also thanked the "good people" in Russia and around the world for their support.

"Thanks to the huge support of good people across the country and around the world, we have made huge progress,'' Navalny said in his message.

"Two months ago, my requests for medical help were prompting smirks. I wasn't given any medications ... Thanks to you, now I have been examined by a panel of civilian doctors twice."

Why is Navalny in prison?

Navalny was arrested in January upon his return from Germany, where he had been convalescing for five months after being poisoned by a nerve agent. He blames the poisoning on the Kremlin, but government officials have denied responsibility.

A Russian court deemed Navalny's stay in Germany illegal as it violated the terms of a suspended sentence he was handed for a 2014 embezzlement conviction. It ordered him to serve more than 2 years in prison.

Mass protests calling for his release and for him to receive adequate medical attention have been taking place across Russia in recent days.

On Sunday, he was transferred from the penal colony east of Moscow where he is serving his sentence to a hospital ward of a prison in the city of Vladimir. A team of his doctors said he was taken to a normal hospital on Tuesday to undergo tests and be examined by specialists.

The US has warned Moscow it would face "consequences" if Navalny died in jail.

The EU, the US and other Western countries have slapped a series of sanctions on Moscow over Navalny's imprisonment and his poisoning last year.

tj,nm/msh (AFP, Reuters)