According to sources in Russia, opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s hunger strike is ongoing, and his health is deteriorating because of it. Despite the Russian government’s insistence on not even mentioning Navalny’s name, he continues to be a high-profile figure on the global stage. Navalny, 44, was imprisoned after returning from Germany in January. Now he’s on a hunger strike for access to a civilian doctor.
Navalny had spent a few weeks in a German hospital, recovering from poisoning by a nerve agent. European and US intelligence has blamed the poisoning on the Kremlin, though the Russian government has denied involvement in the poisoning attack. Originally, Navalny was arrested in 2014 on fraud charges. The European Court of Human Rights has alleged that these charges were politically motivated and that they were “arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable”.
After being imprisoned, Navalny started a hunger strike on March 31 to protest his treatment. He has insisted on seeing his personal doctor so he can receive treatment for his back pain and numbness in his legs. However, the government will not allow Navalny to see his own doctors, instead insisting that he is receiving adequate care from the prison physician.
Navalny’s relatives warn that his hunger strike has reached a point where he could simply die of starvation soon. In this light, his lawyer has called on him to be released to a civilian hospital for treatment. However, the government has resisted this call, citing Navalny as a flight risk given his 2020 trip to Germany for medical treatment.
Some followers of Navalny’s have expressed their wishes that he had remained in exile so as to avoid imprisonment by Putin’s government. However, Navalny’s return suggested that he was unafraid of the consequences of his flight and ready to fight for his political party in his home country.
Navalny’s political party has been the target of an ongoing campaign by the Russian government. Russian officials are now seeking to brand the organization and its employees as extremists, a move that could see even low-level employees of the organization facing serious criminal charges. Navalny’s condition, and the treatment of his political party, have drawn international condemnation.
Within Russia, Navalny’s supporters have called for protests ahead of Putin’s Wednesday address. The annual state of the nation address is one of the most important political dates for the Russian President, and the Russian government has taken the threat of protests seriously.
The Kremlin has insisted that, should any protests take place, they will be met with swift retribution from the authorities. This situation has only exacerbated a politically volatile moment in Russia, where anti-Putin sentiment has been becoming more publicly prevalent in recent years.