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

Navalny 'recovered' after hunger strike, says prison chief

May 20, 2021

The head of Russia's prison service said Navalny has "more or less" recovered after ending a 24-day protest last month. Separately, one of his closest allies has said that his health is now generally satisfactory.

Alexei Navalny attends a court hearing in February
The head of the Federal Penitentiary Service said Navalny now weighs 82 kilograms Image: Babuskinsky District Court/AP/dpa/picture alliance

Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has "more or less" recovered his health after he ended a 24-day hunger strike last month, and has the possibility of communicating with his family, the head of Russia's prison service said on Thursday.

Navalny, Russian President Vladimir Putin's most well-known critic, is serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence in a penal colony outside Moscow for parole violations he says are politically motivated.

"I can say he has more or less recovered his health," TASS news agency quoted Alexander Kalashnikov, head of the Federal Penitentiary Service, as saying. "He already weighs 82 kilograms (181 pounds). He is eating normally and has the possibility of communicating with his family."

His allies have said that he weighed 93 kilograms upon arrival in prison in February, but that his weight fell to 85 kilograms by the time he launched his hunger strike.

His wife Yulia in mid-April said his weight was down to 76 kilograms following the strike.

A 'generally satisfactory' condition

Navalny, 44, declared a hunger strike in March, demanding better medical care in prison after experiencing severe back pain and numbness in his limbs.

His deteriorating health during the protest spurred allies across the country to call on his supporters to take to the streets to demand he receive adequate care.

He ended the strike on April 23 after receiving treatment at a civilian hospital, and has not made a statement since early this month.

Ivan Zhdanov, one of Navalny's closest allies, said on Thursday that his health condition was generally satisfactory.

US worried over 'repression' of opposition

Earlier on Thursday, United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he met with Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov to discuss "a more stable and predictable relationship with Moscow," as well as the Navalny case.

Blinken also raised concerns over the "repression" of opposition organizations, a US State Department spokesman said in a statement.

In recent weeks, Russia has moved to outlaw the dissident's foundation and regional campaign groups. Next month, a court will begin hearing a case about whether to add his network of regional offices and Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) to a list of "terrorist and extremist" organizations.

In a move targeting his supporters, Russia's lower house of parliament on Tuesday approved legislation in a first reading that would ban members of "extremist" organizations from becoming lawmakers. Additionally, if his groups are formally declared extremist, authorities will gain the power to jail activists and freeze their bank accounts.

The case has prompted Navalny's allies to suspend much of their activity. Since Navalny returned to Russia in January from Germany, where he had been recovering from a poisoning attack he blames on Putin, most of his top allies have been placed under house arrest or left the country.

Navalny movement under pressure

lc/aw (Reuters, AFP)