MOSCOW (AP) – Supporters of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Wednesday called for mass protests in central Moscow’s St. Petersburg district, saying Navalny’s health was deteriorating during a hunger strike.
Leonid Volkov, Navalny’s chief strategist, said the protests were a three-day warning because “his life is in balance. We do not know how long he can endure.” But it is clear that we do not have time. “
Navalny, 44, the most outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin, went on a hunger strike more than three weeks ago to protest the prison administration’s refusal to allow him to see a private doctor. He says that he suffers from severe back pain, loss of sensation in his legs, that medical care in prison is insufficient. Russia’s penitentiary service says he is receiving appropriate care.
Several doctors went to the prison colony about 100 kilometers (60 miles) east of Moscow on Sunday, where Navalny is serving time, but were not allowed to see him.
“It is cruel and monstrous to reject a dying patient,” said Anastasia Vasileva, head of the Navalny-backed doctors’ union outside prison.
On Saturday, a doctor said that the results of a test from the Navalny family showed a sharp high level of potassium, which could lead to signs of heart failure and kidney failure.
“Our patient can die at any time,” said doctor Yaroslav Ashikhmin.
Police or government officials did not immediately respond to a call for comment, but the response is likely to be harsh. Navalny nationwide demonstrations demanding freedom during January police arrested more than 10,000 people.
Protests on Wednesday called for symbolic resonance venues: Moscow’s Manege Square, just outside the Kremlin walls, and St. Petersburg’s stretch of Palace Square.
Navalny was arrested on January 17 while returning to Russia from Germany, where he was recovering for five months after being poisoned by the Kremlin. Russian officials have denied involvement, questioning whether Navalny was poisoned, although several European laboratories have confirmed that he has the nerve agent Novichok. ,
Navalny was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison on the grounds that his prolonged recovery in Germany violated the terms of his suspended sentence for a conviction for fraud that Navalny said was politically motivated.
His arrest and subsequent health problems led to repeated criticism from the West.
“We urge the Russian authorities to provide immediate access to trusted medical professionals,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Sunday. “The EU will continue to call for his immediate and unconditional release, as we consider his sentencing to be politically motivated and in violation of Russia’s international human rights obligations.”
Ake Sullivan, a national security adviser, told CNN that the United States was concerned about Navalny’s health.
“We have informed the Russian government that what is happening to Mr. Navalny is their responsibility, they will be held accountable by the international community,” Sullivan said. “We have reported that there will be repercussions if Mr Navalny dies.”