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Jailed Russian Opposition Leader Alexei Navalny Launches Hunger Strike


MOSCOW (AP) — Imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny said Wednesday he has started a hunger strike to protest authorities’ failure to provide proper treatment for his back and leg pains.

In a statement posted on Instagram, Navalny complained about prison officials’ refusal to give him the right medicines and to allow his doctor to visit him behind bars.

He also protested the hourly checks a guard makes on him at night, saying they amount to sleep deprivation torture.

Imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has started a hunger strike to protest a lack of medical care and gu



Imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has started a hunger strike to protest a lack of medical care and guard-enforced sleep deprivation.

The 44-year-old Navalny, who is President Vladimir Putin’s most outspoken domestic opponent, was arrested in January upon his return from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin. Russian authorities have rejected the accusation.

Navalny’s poisoning and conviction have further strained Russia’s ties with the United States and the European Union, which sank to post-Cold War lows after Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea, its meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, hacking attacks and other actions.

His arrest fueled a series of protests that drew tens of thousands across Russia. Authorities detained about 11,000 people, many of whom were fined or given jail terms of up to two weeks.

Navalny said the August poisoning made him wonder about the cause of his current ailments. He said he had no choice but to start a hunger strike because his physical condition has worsened, with back pains having spread to his right leg and numbness in his left leg.

“What else could I do?” he wrote. “I have declared a hunger strike demanding that they allow a visit by an invited doctor in compliance with the law. So I’m lying here, hungry, but still with two legs.”

Last month, Navalny was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for violating the terms of his probation during convalescence in Germany. The sentence stems from a 2014 embezzlement conviction that Navalny has rejected as fabricated — and which the European Сourt of Human Rights has ruled to be unlawful.

Navalny was moved this month from a Moscow jail to a penal colony in Pokrov in the Vladimir region, 85 kilometers (53 miles) east of the Russian capital. The facility called IK-2 stands out among Russian penitentiaries for its particularly strict inmate routines, which include standing to attention for hours.

Navalny’s Instagram also had a picture of a letter to the prison chief, dated Wednesday, in which he announced the hunger strike.

“Every convict has the right to invite a specialist for a check and consultation,” he wrote. “So I demand to let a doctor see me and declare a hunger strike until it happens.”

In a sarcastic reference to the nerve agent poisoning that he blamed on Russia’s top security agency, the FSB, Navalny wrote to the prison chief that “given a recent attempt by the FSB operatives to kill me with chemical weapons, which state-controlled medics cast as a ‘metaboliс problem,’ I’m haunted by vague doubts about the cause of my illness and recovery prospects.”

Convicted opposition activist Alexei Navalny is serving his sentence at Penal Colony No 2, near the town of Pokrov.



Convicted opposition activist Alexei Navalny is serving his sentence at Penal Colony No 2, near the town of Pokrov.

Russia’s prison service said last week that Navalny had undergone medical check-ups and described his condition as “stable and satisfactory.” In a statement that followed his declaration of a hunger strike, it claimed that Navalny is being given “all the necessary medical assistance in accordance with his current health indicators.”

But Navalny has complained that authorities only gave him basic painkiller pills and ointment for his back and legs while refusing to accept medications prescribed earlier by his doctor or to share the diagnosis from his examination.

In a note earlier this month, Navalny described his prison as a “friendly concentration camp.” He said he hadn’t seen “even a hint of violence” there but lived under controls that he compared to those described in George Orwell’s novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four.”

Earlier this week, he said he already had received six reprimands — warnings that could lead to solitary confinement — for offenses such as getting up 10 minutes before the wake-up call and refusing to watch a video lecture that he called “idiotic.”

Navalny, whom prison authorities had earlier marked as a flight risk, said he was subject to particularly close oversight, including a guard waking him up every hour at night and filming him to demonstrate he is in the required place.

“Instead of medical assistance, I’m subjected to sleep deprivation torture, being woken up eight times every night,” he said in Wednesday’s statement.

The prison service insisted that Navalny has been treated in strict conformity with the law and the night checks are part of a regular routine that “don’t disrupt convicts’ rest.”

During a video call with Putin on Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron emphasized the need for Russia to protect Navalny’s health and to respect his rights in compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights, according to Macron’s office.

The Kremlin said in its readout of the call that Putin offered an “objective explanation” in response to questions Merkel and Macron asked about Navalny.

Russian officials have rejected U.S. and EU demands to free Navalny and to stop a police crackdown on his supporters. Moscow also has rebuffed a European Court of Human Rights ruling in favor of his release as “inadmissible” meddling in Russia’s home affairs.

Navalny’s associates have urged Russians to sign up for the next protest to demand his release, promising to set a date for the demonstration when the number of people willing to take part reaches at least 500,000 nationwide.

More than 360,000 have registered since a dedicated website opened on March 23.



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Kremlin Foe Navalny Faces Court That May Jail Him For Years


MOSCOW (AP) — Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny faced a court hearing Tuesday that could end with him being sent to prison for years and fuel more protests against the Kremlin.

The 44-year-old Navalny, an anti-corruption investigator who is the most prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin, was arrested Jan. 17 upon returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin. Russian authorities deny the charge and claim, despite tests by several European labs, that they have no proof he was poisoned.

Russia’s penitentiary service alleges that Navalny violated the probation conditions of his suspended sentence from a 2014 money laundering conviction that he has rejected as politically motivated. It has asked the Simonovsky District Court in Moscow to turn his 3 1/2-year suspended sentence into one that he must serve in prison.

Navalny and his lawyers have argued that while he was recovering in Germany from the poisoning, he couldn’t register with Russian authorities in person as required by his probation. Navalny also insisted that his due process rights were crudely violated during his arrest and described his jailing as a travesty of justice.

“I came back to Moscow after I completed the course of treatment,” Navalny said during Tuesday’s hearing. “What else could I have done?”

Navalny’s jailing has triggered massive protests across Russia over the past two weekends, in which tens of thousands took to the streets to demand his release, chanting slogans against Putin. Police detained over 5,750 people during Sunday’s rallies, including more than 1,900 in Moscow, the biggest number the nation has seen since Soviet times. Most were released after being handed court summons, and face fines or jail terms of seven to 15 days. Several people faced criminal charges over alleged violence against police.

In this handout photo provided by Moscow City Court, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny stands in the cage during a hea



In this handout photo provided by Moscow City Court, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny stands in the cage during a hearing to a motion from the Russian prison service to convert the suspended sentence of Navalny from the 2014 criminal conviction into a real prison term in the Moscow City Court in Moscow, Russia, on Feb. 2, 2021. 

Navalny’s team called for another demonstration Tuesday outside the Moscow court building, but police were out in force there, cordoning off the nearby streets and making random arrests. More than 230 people were detained, according to the OVD-Info group that monitors arrests.

Some Navalny supporters still managed to approach the court building. A young woman climbed a large pile of snow across the street from the courthouse and held up a poster saying “Freedom to Navalny.” Less than a minute later, a police officer took her away.

After his arrest, Navalny’s team released a two-hour YouTube video featuring an opulent Black Sea residence allegedly built for Putin. The video has been viewed over 100 million times, fueling discontent as ordinary Russians struggle with an economic downturn, the coronavirus pandemic and widespread corruption during Putin’s years in office.

Putin insisted last week that neither he nor his relatives own any of the properties mentioned in the video, and his long time confidant, construction magnate Arkady Rotenberg, claimed that he owns it.

As part of efforts to squelch the protests, the authorities have targeted Navalny’s associates and activists across the country. His brother Oleg, top ally Lyubov Sobol and several others were put under house arrest for two months and face criminal charges of violating coronavirus restrictions.

The jailing of Navalny and the crackdown on protests have stoked international outrage, with Western officials calling for his release and condemning the arrests of demonstrators.

“Sweden and the EU are concerned about the situation with democracy, civil society and human rights in Russia,” Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde, the current chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said during talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow.

The diplomat said Navalny’s poisoning and the response by Russian authorities to the street protests will be part of the discussion.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who will visit Moscow later this week, has criticized the detentions and the disproportionate use of force against protesters, emphasizing that Russia must comply with its international commitments on human rights.

Russia has dismissed U.S. and EU officials’ criticism as meddling in its domestic affairs and said that Navalny’s current situation is a procedural matter for the court, not an issue for the government.

More than a dozen Western diplomats attended Tuesday’s court hearing, and Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova charged that their presence was part of efforts by the West to contain Russia, adding that it could be an attempt to exert “psychological pressure” on the judge.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday that Russia is ready for dialogue about Navalny, but sternly warned that it wouldn’t take Western criticism into account.

“We are ready to patiently explain everything, but we aren’t going to react to mentor-style statements or take them into account,” Peskov said in a conference call with reporters.





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