Russian politicians have told President Vladimir Putin that he ‘bears personal responsibility for the survival’ of Alexei Navalny as the Kremlin critic’s life ‘hangs by a thread’ in prison.
Nearly a dozen lawmakers signed and published an open letter to the Russian leader as doctors warn Navalny’s health is failing amid a hunger strike.
Vladimir Putin’s most prominent rival, 44, was imprisoned in February and is serving two-and-a-half years on old embezzlement charges in a penal colony in the town of Pokrov, around 60 miles east of Moscow.
‘The state of health of political prisoner Alexei Navalny threatens his life,’ the letter, signed by 11 politicians from several regional parliaments, said according to CNN.
The politicians demanded an independent doctor be allowed to visit Navalny immediately as medics have been barred from the penal colony.
Alexei Navalny is showing signs of kidney damage and could die ‘at any moment’ as he continues a three-week hunger strike over conditions in a US jail, his doctor has said. Pictured: Navalny in jail last month
It comes after Yaroslav Ashikhmin, a doctor acting on behalf of Navalny’s family, said on Saturday test results received from the Russian penal colony where the activist is being held show dangerous levels of potassium in his blood along with signs of kidney failure.
‘Our patient could die at any moment,’ cardiologist Ashikhmin warned. ‘Fatal arrhythmia can develop any minute,’ he said, adding Navalny should be moved to intensive care.
Navalny has been on hunger strike since March 31 because he says Russian prison guards are refusing him ‘proper medical care’ for acute pain in his back and numbness in his legs. Moscow insists he is being given adequate care.
‘We regard what is happening in relation to Navalny as an attempt on the life of a politician, committed out of personal and political hatred,’ the letter, which was shared on Saturday, said.
‘You, the President of the Russian Federation, personally bear responsibility for the life of Alexei Navalny on the territory of the Russian Federation, including in prison facilities – [you bear this responsibility] to Navalny himself, to his relatives, and to the whole world,’ the politicians said in the letter, which is open for the Russian public to sign.
The IK-2 corrective penal colony, where Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny serves his jail term
Russian politicians have told President Vladimir Putin that he ‘bears personal responsibility for the life’ of Alexei Navalny as the Kremlin critic’s life ‘hangs by a thread’ in prison
It comes as Leonid Volkov, a top strategist for Navalny, said Navalny’s health is deteriorating and called for demonstrations to take place on Wednesday.
‘Navalny is now in the colony, his life hanging on a thread,’ Volkov said on Sunday in a video.
‘He has been on a hunger strike for several weeks now, demanding medical attention.
‘His condition is critical, and we do not know how much longer he can hold out. But it is clear that we do not have time,’ Volkov added, while calling for protests.
Navalny says he is being denied medical attention for acute pain in his back and numbness in his legs by guards inside the penal colony (pictured) where he is being held
The treatment of Navalny has sparked outrage among Western powers, with U.S. President Joe Biden yesterday warning Putin there will be consequences if Navalny is allowed to die in jail.
US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said that Biden is weighing up a range of responses if Navalny dies, and that Moscow is aware of the threat.
Meanwhile EU leaders said sanctions placed on Russia earlier this year could be increased if Navalny perishes, with a summit to discuss the issue today.
Sullivan said Washington is ‘looking at a variety of different costs that we would impose… if Mr Navalny dies’, while refusing to go into specifics.
He spoke a day after Biden called Navalny’s treatment ‘unfair’ and ‘totally inappropriate’ when asked about it during a round of golf.
German foreign minister Heiko Maas said the issue will be discussed at a meeting of EU foreign ministers today.
US national security adviser Jake Sullivan (left) has warned Moscow of ‘consequences’ if Navalny dies, while German foreign minister Heiko Maas has said sanctions could be increased
‘The package of sanctions is already significant, but there may be others,’ French foreign minister Yves le Drain added.
Navalny, an anti-corruption campaigner and Putin’s most-prominent critic, was first arrested in January upon his return to Russia following a suspected Novichok poisoning, that is thought to have been carried out by an FSB hit squad.
He was then jailed for two and a half years the following month over an old embezzlement case, and transferred to a penal colony on February 26.
On March 15 he uploaded his first Instagram post from inside jail, likening conditions to ‘a concentration camp’ alongside an image of him with a shaved head.
Then, on March 31, Navalny revealed in a hand-written letter posted online by his team that he had gone on hunger strike after being denied proper medical care.
He wrote: ‘I really need a doctor. Every convict has the right [by law] to invite a specialist to examine and consult him. Even I have such a right and I’m innocent.
‘I demand that a doctor be allowed to see me, and until this happens, I am declaring a hunger strike.’
Russian activists have called for nationwide protests to pressure the government into saving Navalny, after large demonstrations in January were met with a brutal police response
Navalny has previously posted online about his declining health since he started the strike, saying that prison wardens had threatened to force-feed him.
But the sudden deterioration in his health this weekend prompted Leonid Volkov, a top strategist for Navalny, to call for demonstrations to take place on Wednesday.
The demonstrations are due to take place in symbolic locations – Manezh Square in Moscow, just outside the Kremlin, and St. Petersburg’s sprawling Palace Square.
Police did not immediately respond, but marchers likely face a harsh crackdown.
Officers arrested more than 10,000 people during demonstrations that took place in January, in what was the largest show of defiance against Putin in years.
Last week, Navalny’s wife Yulia, who visited him in the penal colony, said her husband now weighed 168 pounds – down nearly 20 pounds since starting his hunger strike.
Russian ambassador to the UK Andrey Kelin told the BBC at the weekend Navalny is ‘behaving like a hooligan’ and said his life is not in danger.
‘Of course he will not be allowed to die in prison, but I can say that Mr Navalny behaves like a hooligan absolutely in trying to violate every rule that has been established,’ he said, adding that Navalny was trying ‘to attract attention’.