A team of doctors seeking to examine Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny has been turned away from the prison where he is being treated at an infirmary amid concerns his health is failing badly as he ends the third week of a hunger strike.
Anastasia Vasilyeva, Navalny’s personal doctor and the head of the Alliance of Doctors union, said on April 20 the group of physicians came to the penitentiary and requested to see the Kremlin critic, only to wait several hours without success.
“When we called with a request to examine the patient, we were told to come with passports at 8 in the morning. We have not been allowed in,” Vasilyeva said on Twitter.
The health of President Vladimir Putin’s most vocal critic has rapidly deteriorated in recent days and he could suffer cardiac arrest “any minute,” Vasilyeva and three other physicians, including a cardiologist, said in a letter to Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service last week as they pleaded for access to Navalny.
Navalny was moved from his prison to a hospital in another correctional facility over the weekend, with his condition listed as “satisfactory” by prison authorities, the same designation they gave him days before he launched his hunger strike on March 31 to protest the lack of treatment he was getting over acute back and leg ailments.
Since then, his wife has warned that his weight was down to 76 kilograms, 17 less than when he entered the notorious Correctional Colony No. 2, about 100 kilometers from Moscow.
Navalny’s lawyer, who was allowed to see his client in the penal colony just for several minutes late on April 19, said his client looked “bad.”
Navalny’s case has further isolated Moscow at a time when U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has announced tougher economic sanctions against the Kremlin and the Czech Republic, a member of NATO and the European Union, has expelled Russian spies, accusing Moscow of playing a role in a deadly 2014 explosion at an ammunition storage depot.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on April 20 expressed concerns over the health of the jailed opposition politician.
“The German government, together with others, is pressing for him to receive adequate medical treatment,” Merkel told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
Navalny’s colleagues and supporters have strongly criticized his transfer to the prison hospital, saying that the correctional colony he was moved to is in fact infamous for its brutal treatment of inmates.
His doctors have complained that prison hospitals don’t have the proper staff or adequate facilities to treat his ailments.
Navalny was arrested in January on his arrival from Germany, where he was treated for a poisoning in Siberia in August last year with what was defined by European labs as a nerve agent. He has accused Putin of ordering the poisoning, which the Kremlin has denied.
A Moscow court in February converted a 3 1/2-year suspended sentence on a charge that Navalny and his supporters call politically motivated to real jail time, saying he broke the terms of the original sentence by leaving Russia for Germany for the life-saving treatment he received.
The court reduced the time Navalny must spend in prison to just over 2 1/2 years because of time already served in detention.
Merkel’s statement came as Russian authorities crack down on Navalny’s supporters and members of his teams across Russia ahead of a planned protest to support him on April 21.
Police in the city of Kurgan in Russia’s Urals Federal District on April 20 detained a coordinator of Navalny’s team in the city, Aleksei Shvarts, on a charge of repeatedly violating the law on organizing public events such as the April 21 rallies.
The day before, two members of Navalny’s team in the southern city of Krasnodar, Alipat Sultanbegova and Maryam Dadasheva, were detained for announcing the April 21 rally.
A member of Navalny’s team, Anton Overin, in the Siberian city of Ulan-Ude, disappeared on April 20 after he visited the city administration, where he planned to ask permission to hold a pro-Navalny rally on April 21. His colleagues suspect he was detained by law enforcement.
In the town of Berezniki in the Perm region, police visited local activist Artyom Faizullin on April 20 to question him regarding the pro-Navalny rally scheduled for April 21, but Faizullin refused to answer any questions, citing Article 51 of the constitution. The article says a person cannot be compelled to testify against themselves.
With reporting by OVD-Info, MBKh Media, Reuters, and Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland