Alexei Navalny, Russia's most prominent opposition leader, is grappling with a mystery ailment in jail that has seen him lose nearly 18lbs in jus
Alexei Navalny, Russia’s most prominent opposition leader, is grappling with a mystery ailment in jail that has seen him lose nearly 18lbs in just over two weeks, his spokesperson has said.
The health concerns have prompted fears that the Kremlin dissident is being slowly poisoned as he remains incarcerated in a brutal maximum-security penal colony at Melekhovo, some 115 miles (250 km) east of Moscow.
Announcing the grave fears over his health, Navalny’s spokesperson, Kira Yarmysh, added that he was back in a punishment cell after a few days in regular confinement.
Navalny reportedly fell ill last Friday when he was removed from the punishment cell after 15 days and put in a conventional cell.
An ambulance was then called early on Saturday because of acute stomach pains but Navalny received no diagnosis, one of his lawyers, Vadim Kobzev, wrote on Twitter after visiting him in prison.
Navalny reportedly fell ill last Friday when he was removed from the punishment cell after 15 days and put in a conventional cell. Pictured: Navalny is seen via video link from the IK-2 corrective penal colony in Pokrov during a court hearing, May 24, 2022.
Health concerns have prompted fears that the Kremlin dissident is being slowly poisoned
Navalny rose to prominence more than a decade ago by lampooning President Vladimir Putin. Pictured: Putin delivers a speech at a concert marking the Cosmonautics Day at the State Kremlin Palace in Moscow, 12 April 2023
‘The lawyer says that an ambulance was called for Alexey on the night of Friday to Saturday because of an acute stomach pain. No one is treating him and they are not even telling him the diagnosis. He has lost 8 kilos(!) in the last 15 days in the punishment cell,’ Yarmysh said in a post on Twitter.
‘When Alexey asks what he is ill with, the prison doctor mockingly answers that it is ”just spring and everyone has exacerbations”.’
She added: ‘We do not rule out that all this time in prison he could have been poisoned with something to make his health deteriorate slowly but steadily.’
Yarmysh also said this was the thirteenth time that Navalny had been placed in a punishment cell.
A former lawyer who rose to prominence more than a decade ago by lampooning President Vladimir Putin’s elite and voicing allegations of corruption on a vast scale, Navalny has long forecast Russia could face seismic political turmoil.
In 2020 he survived an apparent attempt to poison him during a flight in Siberia, with what Western laboratory tests determined was a nerve agent. Russia denies that the state tried to kill him.
He was treated for that poisoning in Germany but voluntarily returned to Russia in 2021, where he was arrested on arrival and jailed in a fraud case he calls politically motivated.
Yarmysh also said this was the thirteenth time that Navalny had been placed in a punishment cell. Pictured: Navalny takes part in a rally to mark the fifth anniversary of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov’s murder, Moscow, February 29, 2020
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during an event marking Cosmonaut Day at the State Kremlin Palace, on April 12, 2023
The news comes after a video documentary about Navalny won an Oscar last month.
The documentary portrays his career of fighting official corruption, his near-fatal poisoning with a nerve agent in 2020 that he blames on the Kremlin, his five-month recuperation in Germany and his 2021 return to Moscow, where he was taken into custody.
He was later sentenced to two and a half years in prison and was convicted last year of other charges and given another nine-year term.
Navalny has faced unrelenting pressure from Russian authorities, and has been in and out of isolation in a tiny punishment cell. He is allowed to write and receive letters and have lawyers visit occasionally.
German government spokesperson Christiane Hoffmann said Berlin took note of reports about Navalny’s worsening health ‘with great concern’.
She added that Germany wants ‘the inhuman treatment that he is apparently suffering in prison to be lifted’, and wants Russian authorities to ensure he gets access to medical treatment and is released.