Navalny transferred to inmate hospital after 20 days on hunger strike

The Kremlin says it has no information about the opposition leader's state of health
El líder opositor ruso Alexei Navalny

PHOTO/AFP  -   Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny

On 31 March, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny began a hunger strike, which has led to the deterioration of his health to the point where he has had to be admitted to hospital. According to the official statement issued by the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia (FSIN), "a decision has been taken to transfer Navalny to the regional hospital for convicts, which is located in the IK-3 prison". The FSIN itself says that Navalny is examined daily by a doctor and his state of health "is assessed as satisfactory". What they did say is that "with the patient's agreement he has been prescribed a vitamin treatment".

However, sources close to the Russian opposition indicate that Navalny's life is now "hanging by a thread", as they argue that he has serious health problems and is unable to see his trusted doctor. Already last week his wife, Yulia Navalnaya, visited her husband and warned that he had lost a lot of weight and was having difficulty speaking. "He weighs 76 kilos, when he is 1.90 metres tall. After my meeting with Alexei, I am even more worried about him," she said after her visit to the prison. "I have never seen such a scrawny face, but he has no intention of giving up," she added.

Colonia penal IK-3, que alberga un hospital al que supuestamente fue trasladado el crítico del Kremlin encarcelado Alexei Navalny, en Vladimir, Rusia, el 19 de abril de 2021
REUTERS/ALEXANDER RESHETNIKOV - K-3 penal colony, which houses a hospital to which imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny was allegedly transferred, in Vladimir, Russia, 19 April 2021.

Alexei Navalny has reportedly lost up to 16 kilos since he entered prison last February, 9 of them since he began his hunger strike almost three weeks ago. This strike began precisely as a result of the refusal of the prison services to allow him to be examined by a doctor he trusts. Despite statements from the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service, Navalny announced on Instagram on the 16th that the authorities of the IK-2M prison have recognised the serious deterioration of his health and are threatening to force-feed him. It should not be forgotten that the Russian opposition leader suffers from a double hernia and a disc protrusion.

Colonia penal IK-3, que alberga un hospital al que supuestamente fue trasladado el crítico del Kremlin encarcelado Alexei Navalny, en Vladimir, Rusia, el 19 de abril de 2021
AFP/AFP - Main developments surrounding the poisoning and imprisonment of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny

Yaroslvav Yashikhmin is one of the doctors who previously treated Navalny and explains that, after blood tests on the opposition leader on 15 April, the results showed "catastrophically high potassium levels". He believes that the care that a patient in the health situation Alexei Navalny is going through is not being provided and that he should even be in an intensive care unit: "a patient with such high potassium levels should be under observation in an intensive care unit".

The situation is more delicate than it may seem because of the international repercussions. On Sunday, the US expressed concern about Navalny's health and warned Russia about the consequences of his death. White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan announced that Washington had contacted Moscow to convey the US position: "whatever happens to Mr Navalny while he is in their custody is their responsibility and they will be held accountable by the international community".

Principales acontecimientos en torno al envenenamiento y encarcelamiento del opositor ruso Alexei Navalny
PHOTO/AFP - Combination of archive footage showing Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden

The United States has not been the only one to express its views on the situation of the opposition leader. The European Union has also decided to take action on the matter and has done so through the European Union's High Representative for Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell, who has said that his health situation is "very worrying". He also warned of the deterioration he is suffering and the consequences it could have in the coming weeks, saying that Navalny's situation must change or else his life would be in serious danger. The EU therefore demands his "immediate and unconditional release" as it considers his imprisonment to be "politically motivated".

Combinación de imágenes de archivo que muestra al presidente ruso Vladimir Putin y al presidente estadounidense Joe Biden
AP/FRANCOIS WALSCHAETS - EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, EU foreign ministers assessed the bloc's strategy towards Russia following the military build-up on Ukraine's borders and amid the weakening health of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

In addition, Vladimir Putin's government is carrying out numerous arrests during the demonstrations in defence of the opposition leader. Cities such as Krasnodar and Voronezh and the Dagestan region in the Caucasus have witnessed these rallies. Navalny's chief of staff, Leonid Volkov, and the director of FBK, Ivan Zhdanov, in a joint statement expressed their concern about the development of the situation in recent days and were very pessimistic about the future of the Russian country: "the darkest moment for free-thinking people and civil society in Russia is approaching".