Alexei Navalny sent to prison hospital in Russia

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny stands in a cage in the Babuskinsky District Court in Moscow, Russia.   | Photo Credit: AP

Russia’s penitentiary service on Monday said it was transferring ailing Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny to prison hospital, as the EU warned it would hold Moscow “responsible” for the state of his health.

The U.S. on Sunday threatened Russia with “consequences” if President Vladimir Putin’s major domestic opponent — who launched a hunger strike three weeks ago — dies in jail, with Mr. Navalny’s private doctors warning at the weekend he could pass away at “any minute”.

Russia’s prison authorities, which have barred Mr. Navalny’s own medical team from visiting him, said its doctors had decided to move him to a medical facility on the premises of another penal colony outside Moscow.

But the authorities insisted the anti-corruption campaigner’s condition was “satisfactory”, and said he was taking vitamin supplements as part of medical treatment.

Fears over Mr. Navalny’s fate have added more fuel to soaring tensions between Moscow and the West over a build-up of Russian troops along the border with Ukraine and a spiralling diplomatic row with EU member state the Czech Republic.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc held the Russian authorities “responsible for the health situation of Navalny” as Foreign Ministers from its 27 nations held virtual talks.

Mr. Borrell called Mr. Navalny’s condition “very worrisome” and repeated demands that Moscow allows his chosen team of doctors to inspect him.

Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis pushed further, saying the bloc should prepare “a humanitarian mission” to fly him out of Russia for treatment.

Kremlin dismiss outcry

“If the international community does not respond, the regime’s opposition leader will be sent silently to his death,” Mr. Landsbergis said.

The Kremlin dismissed the outcry from foreign leaders over Mr. Navalny’s condition.

“The health of convicts in the Russia Federation cannot and should not be a topic concerning them,” said Mr. Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Mr. Navalny, 44, was arrested in Russia in January after returning from treatment in Germany for a near-fatal nerve agent poisoning he says was carried out by Moscow — accusations denied by Mr. Putin’s administration.

Sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for embezzlement, he began a hunger strike on March 31 demanding medical treatment for back pain and numbness to his hands and legs.

The EU in October sanctioned six Russian officials over the Novichok nerve agent attack on Mr. Navalny, and in February sanctioned another four individuals over his arrest and sentencing.

Mr. Navalny’s supporters have called for a major protest across Russia on Wednesday to demand his release, hours after a state-of-the-nation address by Mr. Putin.

Police warned people not to demonstrate, saying officers would take “all necessary measures to maintain law and order”.

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Printable version | May 18, 2021 7:15:45 PM |

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