Alexei Navalny transferred to prison hospital as condition deteriorates

The Russian Prison Service said on Monday it had transferred jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny to a prison hospital after supporters warned his condition had worsened from nearly three weeks on hunger strike.

Navalny, 44, has been transferred to an institution which “specializes in dynamic care for similar patients” and is in “satisfactory condition” under the daily supervision of a doctor, the Federal Penitentiary Service said in a report. communicated. He agreed to take vitamins, he added.

Supporters of the anti-corruption activist say his life is “hanging on a thread” at high levels of creatine that could lead to kidney failure, as well as potentially fatal levels of potassium that could cause cardiac arrest at “any time”.

Navalny, President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critic, went on a hunger strike last month to protest the conditions in the prison, which he described as “torture”.

The guards refused to let him see a doctor of his choice for severe nerve pain from two herniated discs in his back. After starting the hunger strike, Navalny claimed the guards started grilling chicken in his presence and stuffing candy in his pockets to tease him.

Ivan Zhdanov, the head of the Navalny Anti-Corruption Foundation, said in a tweet that the prison hospital was “just as much a torture camp, just with a large medical facility where they transfer seriously ill people. The only way to understand this is that Navalny’s condition has worsened. So much so that even a torture camp admits it.

Navalny’s health has deteriorated as the Kremlin seems increasingly determined to crush his movement. His supporters are organizing what they hope will be the biggest protest ever in Russia on Wednesday, when Putin is set to deliver his annual State of the Nation address.

On Monday, the attorney general’s office said it would charge social media companies that failed to remove calls for the protest from their platforms and punish parents of underage children who were present.

The Russian Interior Ministry called on the population to avoid demonstrations. “All aggressive actions by participants in unauthorized public events. . . will be treated as a threat to public safety and immediately canceled, ”he said in a statement.

State prosecutors said last week they would decide to declare Navalny’s organization “extremist”, equating it with Islamist terrorist groups and exposing its supporters to charges carrying penalties of up to 10%. years in prison. Most of the group’s top leaders are in exile or under house arrest, while police have arrested several other pro-Navalny activists across Russia in recent weeks.

Navalny was arrested in January immediately after returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from poisoning with a nerve agent he blamed on Putin. The Kremlin, which maintains that Navalny is an American agent determined to destroy Russia, has denied any involvement in the poisoning and suggested that Navalny concocted it himself to cast Putin in a bad light.

EU foreign ministers are scheduled to discuss Navalny’s health at a meeting on Monday. Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said in a tweet on Sunday that she was “deeply concerned” for Navalny’s health and called for “her immediate and unconditional release”.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Russia “is not paying [attention] be it ”to Western calls for the release of Navalny.

“The president cannot make any decisions about monitoring the health of prisoners,” Peskov said, according to the Interfax news agency. “I have no information on the health of the prisoner in question, so I cannot trust your assertions about his supposed critical condition.

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