MOSCOW (AP) – Supporters of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny were arrested on Tuesday near a penal colony east of Moscow where he is currently being held by a Kremlin critic.
Navalny has been on a hunger strike for about a week to protest what he says is a lack of proper treatment for back and leg pain. With Navalny’s support, the Doctors’ Alliance doctors and supporters of the politician gathered in front of the prison, but the authorities refused to allow him to enter.
Local police said they had arrested nine people who allegedly “violated public order”. Among them were Navalny’s doctor, Dr. Anastasia Vasilyan, the head of the Doctors’ Alliance, and several journalists.
Navalny, 44, is the staunchest opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He was arrested in January after returning to Moscow from Germany, where he recovered five months after being poisoned by a nerve agent he blamed on the Kremlin. Russian authorities have denied the allegations.
The court sentenced Navalny to 2 1/2 years in prison in February for violating probation, including while he was recovering in Germany in 2014. From the verdict of embezzlement. Navalny dismissed the conviction as fabricated, saying the European Court of Human Rights had found it “arbitrary and manifestly ill-founded”.
Authorities last month transferred Navalny from a prison in Moscow to an IC-2 prison in the Vladimir region, 85 kilometers (53 miles) east of the Russian capital. The facility in the city of Pokrov stands out in Russia’s penitentiaries with its very strict regime, which includes being in the spotlight for hours.
Within weeks of his imprisonment, Navalny said he had severe back and leg pain and was effectively deprived of sleep because a guard checked on him every night. He went on a hunger strike last Wednesday, demanding proper medication and a visit to his doctor.
Russia’s state penitentiary service says Navalny is receiving all the medical treatment he needs.
In an Instagram post on Monday, Navalny said three of his 15 people had been diagnosed with tuberculosis. He said he had a strong cough and fever at 38.1 degrees (100.6 F).
The Izvestia newspaper issued a statement late Monday evening from the State Penitentiary Service saying Navalny had been in the prison’s sanitation unit after an examination revealed he had “signs of a respiratory illness, including a high fever.”
On Tuesday, it was unclear whether there had been any change in the politician’s condition.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Navalny would receive the necessary medical treatment, but no preferential treatment.
“Of course, there can be no question of special conditions for one of the convicts,” Peskov told reporters. “There are certain rules for sick prisoners. If the disease has really occurred, any appropriate treatment will be provided. ”