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

Celebrities pen open plea to Putin for Navalny's health care

April 17, 2021

The letter was signed by J.K. Rowling, Benedict Cumberbatch, David Duchovny and others. "Our patient can die any minute," the Kremlin critic's personal doctor has warned.

Alexei Navalny sits in court
Alexei Navalny was sentenced to prison earlier this yearImage: Press service of Simonovsky District Court/REUTERS

Several celebrities and public figures have penned a joint letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, calling on him to offer treatment to detained Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

Figures including author J.K. Rowling, actors Benedict Cumberbatch and David Duchovny called on Putin to offer Navalny, who is currently on a hunger strike, immediate medical treatment.

"As we write, Alexei Navalny is being held in a penal colony that many lawyers and human rights activists consider to be one of the harshest in Russia," the letter said.

"Alexei Navalny is exhibiting symptoms of a severe neurological disorder — constant back pain and the loss of sensation in his legs and hands. In addition, he is suffering from a severe cough and fever. As a Russian citizen, he has the lawful right to be examined and treated by a doctor of his choice."

The open letter was published in Le Monde newspaper in France, The Economist, La Repubblica in Italy and Der Spiegel.

Putin 'must keep the law'

"We call on you, Mr. President, to ensure that Alexei Navalny is immediately given the medical treatment and care that he urgently requires — and is entitled to under Russian law. As someone who has sworn to uphold the law, you have only to do so," the letter said.

Later on Saturday, US President Joe Biden condemned Navalny's situation as "totally, totally unfair," and "totally inappropriate."

Concerns over Navalny's deteriorating health

Navalny's personal doctor Anastasia Vasilyeva said Navalny "can die any minute," in a post on Facebook on Saturday, pointing to high potassium levels.

She said he should be moved into an intensive care station, adding "fatal arrhythmia can develop any minute."

Vasilyeva and three more doctors including cardiologist Yaroslav Ashikhmin have asked prison officials to grant them immediate access.

On Monday, Navalny's aides said that prison officials were threatening to force-feed him as he conducts his hunger strike. He also said that authorities at the penal colony where he is being held had refused him proper treatment for acute back pain.

Kremlin targets TikTok over critical content

Navalny, who is Putin's most vocal opponent, survived a poisoning attack with the nerve agent Novichok last August. He was arrested in January of this year after returning to Russia from Germany, where he was treated for the poisoning. He was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison on prior embezzlement charges. His case has since become a sticking point for proponents of democratic values and human rights in Russia.