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Navalny's health worsens in penal colony

March 24, 2021

Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny is suffering poor health as he serves a prison sentence in a penal colony. He survived a poisoning but was jailed for not checking in with police while recovering in Berlin.

An outside view of Penal Colony No 2 where convicted opposition activist Alexei Navalny is serving time
Penal Colony No 2 near Pokrov is renowned for its strict administrationImage: Mikhail Metzel//TASS/dpa/picture alliance

The health of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny is deteriorating as he serves a prison sentence, his lawyers said on Wednesday.

The politician, who narrowly survived a poisoning last year, is serving a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence in a penal colony outside Moscow. The camp is notorious for its harsh discipline regime.

His lawyers demanded immediate access to Navalny, saying he was suffering from severe back pain and that his leg had gone numb. His supporters say he can no longer walk.

Lawyer Olga Mikhailova said a neurologist had attended Navalny but did not say what was wrong with him, only giving him ibuprofen.

"That's all his treatment," she told AFP news agency, saying that the painkiller did not help. "I don't know what's wrong with him. He should be seen by a proper doctor." 

Mikhailova said she was blocked from visiting Navalny on Wednesday.

Navalny being 'hidden'

Navalny's right-hand man Leonid Volkov said authorities may be covering up the fact that he was transferred to a prison infirmary.

"We don't know where Alexei Navalny is and why they are hiding him from his lawyers," Volkov said on Facebook.

Maria Pevchikh, head of investigations at Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation, said: "The rapid deterioration of his health condition raises our extreme concerns."  

"We believe that Navalny's life is in danger and demand immediate access to him for his lawyers," she tweeted.

The 44-year-old was jailed in early February for violating parole requirements from a separate sentence, as he was in Berlin recovering from a nerve agent poisoning attack. Western investigators have pinned the attack on Vladimir Putin's regime.

Navalny has described the Pokrov penal colony —  85 kilometers (53 miles) east of Moscow — as a concentration camp.

His team launched a new protest campaign yesterday, seeking to host "modern Russia's biggest protest."

Once 500,000 supporters have registered online, they will set a date for a protest. So far 200,000 people have signed up.

aw/sms (AFP, dpa, Reuters, AP)