Person of the Week: Aleksei Navalny goes on hunger strike

Week-ending 2 April 2021

This week Aleksei Navalny went on hunger strike after he complained of poor health and a refusal to provide him with appropriate medical treatment in penal colony No. 2 in Vladimir region. He also said he risked being placed in ‘torturous’ solitary confinement after receiving reprimands in prison. Hundreds of Russian doctors signed a petition calling for Navalny to be given medical treat,ment. In other news the father of Ivan Zhdanov, director of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, was remanded in custody of charges of abuse of office.


RFE/RL, 28 March 2021: Members of the Public Oversight Commission in the Vladimir Region have met with jailed opposition leader Aleksei Navalny following his complaints about his declining health and poor medical treatment in Correctional Colony No. 2. The commission’s chairman Vyacheslav Kulikov said in a statement on March 28 that the team “visited the colony and met with Aleksei Navalny in order to learn about problems with his health and the provision of medical treatment.” “During the discussion, Navalny complained about pain in his leg and asked for assistance in getting injections to treat this pain,” Kulikov said. Kulikov also said Navalny was able to walk and did not voice any other complaints. He said Navalny’s request for injections had been officially registered. “We asked doctors to pay attention to this and, in case it is necessary, to carry out an additional medical checkup,” Kulikov said.

RFE/RL, 29 March 2021: The father of Ivan Zhdanov, the director of the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) of jailed Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny, has been detained on a charge of abuse of office. Zhdanov wrote on social media on March 29 that his 66-year-old father Yury Zhdanov was sent to pretrial detention over the weekend after police searched his home in the city of Rostov-on-Don on March 26. “I have no doubts that the criminal case was launched because of me and my activities,” Zhdanov wrote, adding that his father’s arrest was “absolutely a new level of villainy and turpitude from the presidential administration.”

The Moscow Times, 29 March 2021: Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said Monday that he risks being sent to “torture-like” solitary confinement after he received several reprimands at a notoriously harsh penal colony. Navalny, 44, is serving a sentence of two and a half years for violating parole in an old fraud case while recovering abroad from poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin.

RFE/RL, 29 March 2021: Jailed Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny says he fears the possibility of solitary confinement in a punishment cell after being accused of minor infractions. Navalny said in an Instagram post on March 29 that he had been given six reprimands within two weeks at the correctional colony where he is being held. “You get two reprimands and you go to punitive isolation, which is an unpleasant place, conditions there are close to torture,” he said.

RFE/RL, 29 March 2021: The head of the trauma and orthopedics department at the Russian hospital where opposition politician Aleksei Navalny was treated for poisoning last summer has died. The Omsk emergency hospital No. 1 said in a statement that Rustam Agishev passed away on March 26. “In December last year, Rustam Agishev suffered a stroke and was unable to get over that illness,” according to the statement, which did not mentioned foul play as a possible cause of death. Navalny was admitted to the acute-poisoning unit of the hospital on August 20 after he became ill on a flight from Tomsk to Moscow.

RFE/RL, 30 March 2021: Hundreds of Russian physicians have demanded authorities provide immediate medical assistance to jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny amid growing concerns over the state of his health. Some 500 doctors and medical experts signed the online petition that was launched on March 28, one of the initiators of the petition, a journalist from the Insider website, Oleg Pshenichny, told RFE/RL.

The Guardian, 30 March 2021: The role the Russian state played in the death of a Wiltshire woman who was poisoned with the nerve agent novichok is to be investigated in detail at her inquest. Heather Hallett said she would carry out a “fearless” inquiry into the death of Dawn Sturgess including digging into who directed the operation to bring novichok into the UK. Lady Hallett, a retired high court judge, also revealed she planned to look into the actions of the police and public health officials to keep the people of Wiltshire safe after the initial novichok attack on the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal four months before Sturgess’s death.

Front Line Defenders, 30 March 2021: Since January 2021, human rights defender Ernest Mezak has been facing increasing pressure from the authorities in relation to his participation in rallies and demonstrations protesting the judicial process and continued imprisonment of opposition politician Alexei Navalny. Since January, five administrative cases have been brought against him, on charges of: “violation by a participant of a public event of the established procedure for holding a meeting, rally, demonstration, march or picket” in one case, for which he was convicted and fined, and “refusal to obey lawful orders of a police officer” in the remaining four cases. One of the four cases on charges of police disobedience was ultimately dismissed, whilst in two of the remaining cases he was convicted and sentenced to 12 and six days of administrative detention respectively. He is still awaiting a decision on the fourth case.

The Guardian, 31 March 2021: Alexei Navalny has gone on hunger strike after saying he was denied urgent medical treatment in prison. The Russian opposition leader has complained of a “sharp deterioration” in his health since his transfer to a prison colony in the Vladimir region to serve a two-and-a-half year sentence on embezzlement charges. The colony, which is 60 miles from Moscow, is notoriously strict and said to excel at isolating inmates from the outside world. Navalny, who barely survived a poisoning attack in August traced back to Russia’s FSB, complained of “aggressively progressing” pain and numbness in his back and legs. “Parts of my right and now left leg have lost all feeling,” he wrote in a note, which has been reposted to his social media account.

The Moscow Times, 31 March 2021; A court in St. Petersburg on Wednesday jailed a man for a year for having attacked a riot police officer during a rally in support of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. Yevgeny Tugankov became the third Russian to receive a prison sentence over the nationwide protests that took place in late January and early February demanding freedom for 44-year-old Navalny. On Wednesday, St. Petersburg’s Leninsky district court sentenced Tugankov to one year in a penal colony for having used violence against a law enforcement official, the OVD-Info rights group reported. Tugankov pleaded guilty to the charges.

RAPSI, 1 April 2021: Moscow’s Tverskoy District Court on Thursday sentenced a participant of the unauthorized rally held in Moscow on January 23 Alexey Milyayev to one year in penal colony for assault on a police officer, RAPSI was told in the court. The man was found guilty of using force against a representative of authority. He pled guilty. Earlier, the Investigative Committee published videorecords showing the defendant beating a law enforcement officer during the January 23 rally and trying to strip a helmet from him.

The Moscow Times, 1 April 2021: A television crew from the Kremlin-backed broadcaster RT has filmed a segment at Alexei Navalny’s prison colony, the jailed Kremlin critic’s Telegram channel said Thursday. The crew arrived at the prison colony, known as one of Russia’s harshest, a day after Navalny announced the start of his hunger strike to demand proper medical care for severe back pain and a numb right leg.

RFE/RL, 1 April 2021: Russia’s prison authority on April 1 rejected accusations of mistreatment of opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, one day after the anti-corruption campaigner and frequent Kremlin critic announced a hunger strike to protest alleged abuses in custody. The 44-year-old Navalny has complained of medical care being withheld for serious ailments and near constant interruptions by prison guards at night to deny him sleep.

RFE/RL, 2 April 2021: Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny has lost significant weight in prison, his allies said, even before the Kremlin critic launched a hunger strike this week. In an April 1 post on Navalny’s Telegram channel, his team said Navalny weighed 93 kilograms when he arrived at prison last month and is now at 85 kilograms. The statement said he blames the weight loss primarily on sleep deprivation from being woken by guards eight times per night. Navalny declared a hunger strike on March 31, saying prison officials are withholding medical care and interrupting his sleep. He has complained of acute pain in his back and some numbness in his legs.

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