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Germany urges Russia to give Alexei Navalny medical care

January 13, 2023

Germany is calling on Russian authorities to provide "urgent" medical care to Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. The dissident has said he is being denied access to basic medical treatment, despite being sick.

Opposition activist Alexei Navalny (back) appears at Moscow City Court for a Simonovsky District Court hearing into an application by the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service
Navalny has been in prison since his return to Russia two years agoImage: Moscow City Court Press Service/TASS/dpa/picture alliance

The German government on Friday said Russian authorities should provide "urgent medical assistance" to Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny.

Navalny, Russian President Vladimir Putin's most prominent opponent, said earlier this week that he was suffering from flu-like symptoms but had been denied the most basic medical care.

What is Berlin saying?

"Navalny is in urgent need of medical assistance as numerous Russian doctors have pointed out. We call on the Russian authorities to provide this immediately and completely," said the spokeswoman Christiane Hoffmann.

She referred to information "that inhumane prison conditions, including prolonged solitary confinement, have caused his condition to deteriorate sharply." 

Berlin had tried to intervene on behalf of Navalny, but that this had proved difficult in the context of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine.

Hoffmann said the 46-year-old should receive medical assistance "immediately and in full."

At the same time, she renewed the demand that "Navalny be released immediately," adding that his imprisonment was "based on a politically motivated verdict." Hoffman said it showed that the Russian government was trying "by all means" to silence dissenters.

Is the Russian opposition making a dent in Putin's regime?

Asked whether German doctors could travel to Russia to help Navalny, the spokeswoman said — given the deterioration in relations over the war in Ukraine — it was "very difficult at the moment" to get in touch with the Russian government "about such issues at all." However, she said, the German government was trying "to do what is possible."

What are the health concerns?

Some 290 Russian doctors this week wrote an open letter to President Vladimir Putin calling for Navalny to receive medical treatment.

"The conditions of detention and the physical appearance of Alexei Navalny cause us great concern for his life and health," the letter said.

Navalny's wife Yulia Navalnya also appealed to prison staff to provide her husband with basic medicines on Wednesday. 

Supporters have warned with increasing urgency that Navalny's life is in danger after a flu outbreak at the prison colony in Melekhovo, about 260 kilometers (some 160 miles) north-east of Moscow.

Navalny himself posted on social media via his lawyers this week, saying that authorities had deliberately placed a sick man next to him as a "bacteriological weapon." 

The dissident was arrested in January 2021 upon returning from Germany, where he recovered from being poisoned with the deadly Novichok nerve agent — an attack he blames on the Kremlin.

Navalny is currently serving 11 1/2 years in jail on charges of fraud and contempt of court that Navalny and Western governments say are politically motivated. There are fears he could face further charges and an even longer prison term.

rc/rs (AFP, Reuters)