Alexei Navalny: Russian opposition leader starts prison hunger strike over medical care

31 March 2021, 17:18 | Updated: 31 March 2021, 17:24

Alexei Navalny was jailed earlier this year
Alexei Navalny was jailed earlier this year. Picture: PA

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny says he has started a prison hunger strike in protest over his medical care.

In a statement posted on Instagram, the top Kremlin critic said officials had failed to provide proper treatment for his back and leg pains.

He complained about the refusal of prison authorities to give him the right medicines and to allow his doctor to visit him.

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

Mr Navalny said in his statement that he had no choice but to protest with a hunger strike because his physical condition has worsened. He said his back pains have spread to his right leg and he feels 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. So I'm lying here, hungry, but still with two legs."

The 44-year-old is Russian president Vladimir Putin's most outspoken opponent.

He was arrested in January on his return from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin.

Last month, he was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for violating the terms of his probation while in Germany.

The sentence stems from a 2014 embezzlement conviction he has rejected as fabricated, and which the European Court of Human Rights has ruled is unlawful.

Mr Navalny was moved this month from a Moscow jail to a prison colony in Pokrov in the Vladimir region, 50 miles east of the Russian capital.

The facility is known for its particularly strict inmate routines, which include standing at attention for hours.