Putin critic Navalny continues his hunger strike despite cough, fever

  • 5 Apr 2021

The 44-year-old politician Alexey Navalny has a bad cough and a temperature at 38.1 degrees Celsius, but will carry on his hunger strike, demanding proper treatment for his acute back and leg pain.

In this February 20, 2021, file photo, Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny attends a hearing to consider an appeal against an earlier court decision to change his suspended sentence to a real prison term, in Moscow, Russia. ( Reuters )

Jailed Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny says he has been suffering from a heavy cough and fever but will continue a hunger strike he launched last week demanding adequate medical treatment.

Navalny, 44, announced the hunger strike last Wednesday, complaining a prison doctor had only given him painkillers as treatment for severe back pain and numbness in his legs. 

His team the next day said he had already lost eight kilogrammes (18 pounds) before going on the hunger strike, down from the 93 kilogrammes (205 pounds) he weighed when he arrived at the penal colony, due to sleep deprivation.

In a post on his Instagram on Monday, Navalny reported new ailments.

"I am quoting the official data from today's temperature measurement: 'Navalny A.A., strong cough, temperature 38.1'," he wrote, referring to degrees Celsius, or 100.6 degrees Fahrenheit. 

"P.S. I am continuing my hunger strike, of course," Navalny said.

READ MORE: Jailed Kremlin critic Navalny begins hunger strike

Transfer to a medical unit

Later the pro-Kremlin Izvestia daily said that Navalny had been transferred to a medical unit for observation, with "signs of a respiratory problem, notably a high fever".

All the necessary tests were carried out, including a coronavirus test, the paper said, citing prison services.

There was no confirmation of such a transfer from the Navalny camp.

The opposition politician is serving a two-and-a-half year sentence on old fraud charges, in a penal colony in the town of Pokrov some 100 kilometres (62 miles) east of Moscow known for its harsh discipline. 

READ MORE: Navalny: I am being tortured with sleep deprivation in prison

'Practically exemplary colony'

His latest statement from the colony comes after pro-Kremlin media on Friday launched an offensive aiming to disprove his complaints of mistreatment and lack of medical attention. 

Two reports in pro-Kremlin outlets described Navalny as looking "quite normal" and saying he is incarcerated in a penal colony that is "practically exemplary."

In his post Monday, Navalny said the reports had "not a single word of truth."

As evidence, he wrote that a third person out of the 15 inmates in his unit had been hospitalised with tuberculosis since his arrival at the penal colony in February.

"I am surprised that there is no Ebola virus here," he quipped, adding: "such is our 'ideal, exemplary colony'."

READ MORE: Navalny ally calls for courtyard protests as Russia accuses side of treason

Protest outside the facility 

Navalny was arrested on his return to Russia in January, after spending months in Germany recovering from a poisoning last summer that he blames on the Kremlin.

Earlier this month, Navalny, who is considered a flight risk by authorities, filed two complaints against prison officials, saying he is woken eight times a night by guards announcing to a recording camera that he is still in his cell.

The Alliance of Doctors medical trade union said it would organise a protest outside the penal colony in Pokrov on Tuesday, demanding Navalny receive adequate medical treatment.

The group, which was branded a "foreign agent" by Russia's justice ministry last month, is headed by Navalny's personal doctor Anastasia Vasilyeva. 

"We are going there to understand what the hell is going on at this terrible colony," she wrote on Twitter.

READ MORE: Kremlin critic Navalny relocated to penal colony