Russian opponent Alexeï Navalny, imprisoned in a penal colony, announced a hunger strike on Wednesday to protest against the lack of access to healthcare and the “torture” he suffers from sleep deprivation.
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Mr. Navalny, a tireless anti-corruption activist and main critic of the Kremlin, has repeatedly denounced in recent weeks his conditions of detention in the Pokrov camp, 100 km east of Moscow, known as one of the most hardships from Russia.
“I am declaring a hunger strike to demand law enforcement and to let a doctor come to see me,” wrote on his Instagram account Mr. Navalny, who says he suffers from back and leg pain.
According to the 44-year-old opponent, the prison administration refuses to give him access to a doctor, to provide him with medication and “torture” by depriving him of sleep by waking him “eight times a night”.
“The back pain moved to the leg. Areas of my right leg and now my left leg have lost their sensitivity. Jokes aside, it’s boring, ”says Navalny, who says he spends his time lying on his bed.
According to him, the administration also refuses to give him books apart from the Bible and would have made sure that the other inmates “do not clean around” his bed.
“They just say: + (Alexeï), I’m sorry, but we are just afraid (…) The life of a prisoner is worth less than a pack of cigarettes”, he wrote.
The Russian prison services immediately reacted in a statement assuring that Alexeï Navalny “receives all necessary medical assistance” and that the guards “strictly respect the right of all those condemned to uninterrupted sleep of eight hours”.
– Fears for his health – Monday, Alexeï Navalny also claimed to have received several warnings since his imprisonment, which exposes him to a possible placement in a disciplinary cell.
He had called the Pokrov colony a “concentration camp” and compared his daily life to that of a “Stormtrooper” in the “Russian remake of Star Wars” because of the harsh discipline in place.
Alexeï Navalny has regularly posted messages on social networks since his imprisonment, and his lawyers refuse to say how they come out, the opponent having no access to the internet.
The hunger strike comes as this fierce critic of the Kremlin claimed last week that his health was deteriorating, that he suffered from a pinched nerve in his back and was at risk of losing his right leg for lack of treatment.
“My back hurts a lot, without being able to bend or straighten up,” wrote on March 26 Mr. Navalny, who said that he had only once received a few tablets of Ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory drug.
Alexei Navalny was the victim in August 2020 of poisoning with Novichok, an nerve agent developed in Soviet times for military purposes. He blames the Kremlin for this, which denies any involvement.
He returned to Moscow in January from five months of convalescence in Germany, including three weeks in a coma, and was immediately arrested and jailed.
Mr Navalny was later sentenced to two and a half years in prison in a 2014 fraud case which he, NGOs and many Western capitals believe to be politically motivated. He was also targeted by multiple other legal proceedings.
His relatives said last week they feared for his health in detention. The prison services, for their part, assured that he was in a “satisfactory” condition.
His lawyer Olga Mikhailova had notably estimated that the opponent’s current health problems could be linked to his poisoning last summer and considered that his life was threatened.
Mr. Navalny, beyond his state of health, revealed to be constantly the subject of disciplinary reports in the colony of Pokrov, for having “risen from his bed 10 minutes” too early or for a “refusal of participate ”in compulsory morning physical exercises.
His wife Yulia Navalnaïa denounced a “personal revenge” of the Kremlin, accusing Russian President Vladimir Poutine of having imprisoned her husband for “fear of political competition”.
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