Moscow (Brussels Morning) Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny began a hunger strike on Wednesday, in an effort to force the authorities of the penal colony outside Moscow to provide him with adequate medical care for acute pain in his back and legs, Reuters reports.
Navalny reportedly began experiencing severe back pain two weeks ago, but claims he has received no medical aid other than a visit by a neurologist, who provided him with two analgesics. Navalny says the pain has spread to his legs and that he now has difficulty walking.
The Pokrow prison authorities have denied his requests for further medical care, and also blocked his attorney Olga Mikhailova from visiting him last week. Navalny sent a handwritten letter to the prison governor on Wednesday, declaring he will go on a hunger strike until a doctor is allowed to see him.
Prison authorities declared last week that a doctor’s visit had determined Navalny’s health to be “stable and satisfactory”. Despite the international media attention on the opposition leader’s case, the Kremlin has refused to comment on his health.
In an open letter sent on Monday, a group of medical professionals called for Navalny to be provided with adequate medical care. “We fear for the worst”, the letter said. “Leaving a patient in this condition … may lead to severe consequences, including an irreversible, full or partial loss of lower limb functions”.
Navalny is currently serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence in the IK-2 corrective penal colony near Pokrow, some 100 kilometres east of Moscow. He was sent there for allegedly violating the terms of his suspended prison sentence by not reporting on time to federal prison authorities in Moscow.
The court rejected his defence, in which Navalny claimed he had been unable to report as instructed since he was receiving medical treatment in Germany at the time, for what Western countries believe was an attempted poisoning by the Russian intelligence agency FSB. Navalny’s original, suspended sentence had been dismissed by the European Court of Human Rights as baseless and politically motivated, forcing Russia to compensate Navalny.