1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Alexei Navalny says he's 'tortured' in prison

March 25, 2021

The jailed Kremlin critic has told lawyers he is in "great pain" and has trouble using one of his legs. Russian prison authorities have claimed Navalny's health is "satisfactory."

Alexei Navalny at a Moscow court
Russian dissident Alexei Navalny was sentenced to 3 years in prisonImage: Press Office of Moscow's Babushkinsky District Court/ITAR-TASS/imago images

One of the lawyers for Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny said Thursday that the jailed Kremlin critic told her he has been subject to sleep deprivation by guards and considers the treatment in a Russian penal colony to be "torture."

Navalny told lawyers that he is woken eight times per night by guards announcing to a recording camera that he is still in his cell. He is considered a flight risk by prison authorities. 

"Essentially I am being tortured through sleep deprivation," Navalny said in a formal complaint released by his lawyers.

Navalny's wife, Yulia Navalnaya, said on social media Thursday that her husband's treatment was "personal revenge" for his opposition activities, and demanded that he be released for medical treatment.

After visiting Navalny in prison, lawyer Olga Mikhailova told Russia's TV Rain broadcaster that he is suffering from health problems and has experienced back pain "for weeks."

What is wrong with Navalny's health?

Mikhailova said prison authorities have denied Navalny's requests for a civilian physician while ignoring appeals from his legal team that he receive proper medicine. She said Navalny has received ointment and pills, but authorities did not accept medicine brought in by his legal team.

Penal Colony No 2, 85 km east of Moscow
The penal colony where Navalny is held is known for having a strict prisoner regimeImage: Mikhail Metzel//TASS/dpa/picture alliance

"In my opinion, he is in bad shape health-wise because he is experiencing severe pain in his back and in his right leg," Olga Mikhailova told Russia's TV Rain broadcaster. 

 "One of his legs practically doesn't work ... everyone is afraid for his life and health" she said, adding that Navalny had undergone an MRI scan, but had not been informed of the results.

Russia's Federal Prison Service (FSIN), however, said doctors carried out an examination and claimed Navalny's health was "assessed as stable and satisfactory."

Why is Navalny in a penal colony?

Navalny is Russian President Vladimir Putin's most prominent opponent. He was detained in January directly after landing in Russia from Germany where he had been convalescing after being poisoned with a nerve agent. 

He was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in a penal colony in February on embezzlement charges. His allies say his incarceration is an attempt to silence political opposition to Putin. 

The penal colony where Navalny is being held is notorious for a strict regime, which includes standing at attention for hours. 
Rights groups in Russia and abroad and Western governments have called for his release. 

The United States and the European Union have sanctioned Russia for jailing Navalny and also for allegedly orchestrating last year's poisoning, a charge Moscow has denied.

wmr/sms (Reuters, AFP)