Alexei Navalny ‘seriously ill’ on prison sick ward, says lawyer

Alexei Navalny’s lawyer has said confirmed that the opposition leader is “seriously ill” after reports emerged that he had been transferred to a prison sick ward for a respiratory illness and had been tested for coronavirus.

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Photograph: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

The Kremlin critic said in a note published on Monday that he was coughing and had a temperature of 38.1C (100.6F). Several prisoners from his ward had already been treated in hospital for tuberculosis, Navalny wrote. Hours later, the pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia reported he had been moved to a sick ward and tested for coronavirus, among other diseases.


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A lawyer for Navalny said that a member of his legal team had seen the opposition leader on Tuesday and that he was “in rather bad condition”. Navalny declared a hunger strike last week because he had been denied a visit from a personal doctor for growing numbness and pain in his back and legs that had made it difficult for him to walk.

“He has lost a lot of weight, plus he has a strong cough and a temperature of 38.1C,” Olga Mikhailova, the lawyer, said on the Echo of Moscow radio station. “This man is seriously ill. It’s a complete outrage that the IK-2 [prison] has driven him to this condition.”

In a letter published on Monday, Navalny wrote that three inmates in his ward had been taken to hospital recently with tuberculosis. He joked darkly that if he had contracted the disease, it could distract him from “the pain in my back and numbness in my legs”.

Video: Alexei Navalny announces start of prison hunger strike over inadequate medical treatment (France 24)

Alexei Navalny announces start of prison hunger strike over inadequate medical treatment

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Russian police officers guard the entrance to the penal colony where Alexei Navalny is being held, ahead of a planned protest in his support on Tuesday. Photograph: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images

There has not been official confirmation of Navalny’s medical treatment, although a lawyer speculated on Monday that the sick ward was probably in the IK-2 prison colony, 60 miles east of Moscow, where he is being held. The prison is notoriously strict and said to specialise in isolating prisoners from the outside world.

Navalny is serving a two-and-a-half year prison term on embezzlement charges that he has said is retribution for his political opposition to Vladimir Putin. Navalny survived a poisoning attempt that he traced back to Russia’s FSB last year. He was arrested in January when he returned to Russia from Germany, where he had been treated for poisoning with a novichok-type nerve agent.

© Photograph: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP
One of Alexei Navalny’s lawyers says it is a ‘complete outrage’ that prison conditions have made him so sick.

Navalny has compared the prison colony to a “concentration camp” and complained of sleep deprivation and other psychological pressure. Last week, a pro-Kremlin activist who had been jailed on spying charges in the US visited him in the prison, telling him that he had exaggerated the poor conditions in the prison.

“I’m tired of the complaining. He is in one of the best penal colonies in Russia,” Maria Butina, the activist who now works for the state-funded television station RT, posted on social media. She visited the prison with a camera crew in tow.

Police have been deployed outside the prison ahead of a protest in support of Navalny planned for Tuesday.

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