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Navalny declares hunger strike in prison

March 31, 2021

Jailed Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny has announced on social media he will go on hunger strike until he receives proper medical treatment.

Alexei Nawalny | russischer Oppositionspolitiker
Image: Press Office of Moscow's Babushkinsky District Court/ITAR-TASS/imago images

Jailed Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny announced Wednesday in an Instagram post he would go on hunger strike until he receives proper medical treatment. The 44-year-old Kremlin critic has complained of acute back pain and numbness in his legs. 

"I have gone on a hunger strike demanding that the law be obeyed and that a visiting doctor be allowed to visit me," Navalny said in the post, which was published via his lawyers.

The Kremlin critic has made various claims of mistreatment in detention, including being deprived of sleep. 

Navalny is currently jailed in the IK-2 corrective penal colony located 100 km (60 miles) east of Moscow. Prison authorities have not yet commented on Navalny's hunger strike announcement.

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What have medical professionals said about Navalny's condition?

Medical professionals have urged authorities to provide Navalny with proper medical treatment. 

"We fear for the worst. Leaving a patient in this condition... may lead to severe health consequences, including an irreversible, full or partial loss of lower limb functions," a group of medical professionals wrote in an open letter published on Sunday, demanding Navalny receive better medical care while in prison.  

Navalny said he has only received Ibuprofen and creme for his leg condition. He fears both his legs could possibly be amputated.

"I don't want to lose both legs," Navalny said in the Instagram post. "It wouldn't be fair. Everyone has two legs and I wouldn't have any." 

The Russian Federal Penitentiary Service had claimed last week that Navalny undergoes medical checkups while in prison and described his condition as "stable and satisfactory."

How has Navalny described his experience in prison?

Navalny has previously compared the prison to a "concentration camp" and likened his experience to George Orwell's dystopian novel 1984. He has said he could face solitary confinement due to infractions while in prison. 

A photo of Navalny in prison
The first known image of Navalny in prisonImage: INSTAGRAM @NAVALNY via REUTERS

Navalny has claimed he is woken up by guards every hour, who then take his picture. "I think someone upstairs read Orwell's 1984 and said: 'Yeah, cool. Let's do this. Education through dehumanization," Navalny said on Instagram earlier this month. 

Why is Navalny in jail?

Navalny is currently serving a two-and-a-half year sentence for violating his parole linked to a 2014 ruling. Navalny, one of the fiercest critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin, believes the sentence is a politically motivated attempt to silence him. 

Russia has faced widespread protests both during his parole trial and after his sentencing

In August, Navalny became violently ill on a flight from the Russian city of Tomsk to Moscow, and was later taken to Charite Hospital in Berlin for treatment. Navalny has accused the Russian FSB security service of poisoning him with the Novichok nerve agent, although the Kremlin denies this allegation.

In January, Navalny returned to Russia from Germany following his recovery from the poisoning. Navalny was taken into custody shortly after his arrival. 

wd/msh (AFP, Reuters)