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Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny ‘could die any minute’, doctors warn

On 31 March, President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent opponent went on a hunger strike to demand proper medical treatment for back pain and numbness in his legs and hands. Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny risks cardiac arrest at “any minute” as his health has rapidly deteriorated, doctors warned Saturday, urging immediate access to Russia’s most famous prisoner. On Saturday, US President Joe Biden added his voice to a growing international chorus of protest at the activist’s treatment, describing his situation as “totally unfair”.

In February, Mr. Navalny, 44, was imprisoned and is serving two-and-a-half years on old embezzlement charges in a penal colony in Pokrov, around 100 kilometers east of Moscow.

Mr. Navalny’s doctor Anastasia Vasilyeva and three more doctors, including cardiologist Yaroslav Ashikhmin have asked prison officials to grant them immediate access.

“Our patient can die any minute,” Dr. Ashikhmin said on Facebook on Saturday, pointing to the opposition politician’s high potassium levels and saying Mr. Navalny should be moved to intensive care.

Alexei Navalny

“Fatal arrhythmia can develop any minute.”

Police officers guard the entrance to the penal colony N2, where Alexei Navalny is serving a two-and-a-half-year prison term in Pokrov on 6 April.

AFP via Getty Images

In August, Mr. Navalny barely survived poisoning with the Novichok nerve agent, which he has blamed on the Kremlin. His doctors say his hunger strike might have exacerbated his condition.

Blood potassium levels above 6.0 mmol (millimole) per liter usually require immediate treatment. Mr. Navalny’s were at 7.1, the doctors said.

“This means both impaired renal function andserious heart rhythm problems can happen any minute,” said Dr. Vasilyeva’s Twitter account. The doctors said he had to be examined immediately, “considering the blood tests and his recent poisoning”.

‘Alexei is dying.’

Mr. Navalny’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh, who accompanied him when he collapsed on a plane after the poisoning in August, said the situation was critical again.

“Alexei is dying,” she said on Facebook. “With his condition, it’s a matter of days.”

She said she felt like she was “on that plane again, only this time it’s landing in slow motion”, pointing out that access to Mr. Navalny was restricted, and few Russians were aware of what was happening with him in prison. On Saturday, responding to reporters’ questions about Mr. Navalny’s plight, Mr. Biden responded: “It’s unfair, totally inappropriate”. More than 70 prominent international writers, artists, and academics, including Jude Law, Vanessa Redgrave, and Benedict Cumberbatch, have called on Mr. Putin to ensure Mr. Navalny receives proper treatment immediately.

Their appeal was published late Friday by France’s Le Monde newspaper.

Mr. Navalny’s team had announced plans to stage what they said would be “modern Russia’s biggest protest“. Mr. Navalny’s allies said they would set a date for the protest once 500,000 supporters had registered with a website. As of Saturday night, more than 450,000 people had signed up.

Ms. Yarmysh on Saturday urged more Russians to sign up, saying that a big rally could help save Mr. Navalny’s life.

“Putin only reacts to mass street protests,” she added.

Alexei Navalny stage a demonstration outside Downing Street in London, Britain, on 13 April.” src=”https://sl.sbs.com.au/public/image/file/9a6f4283-4628-4811-9cbb-dbb8147aebd4″ alt=”Supporters of Alexei Navalny stage a demonstration outside Downing Street in London, Britain, on 13 April.” width=”700″ height=”494″ />

Supporters of Alexei Navalny stage a demonstration outside Downing Street in London, Britain, on 13 April.


Earlier this week, Mr. Navalny’s wife, Yulia, who visited him in the penal colony, said her husband weighed 76 kilograms – down nine kilograms since starting his hunger strike.

On Friday, Russian prosecutors asked a court to label Mr. Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation and the network of his regional offices “extremist” organizations in a move that would outlaw them in Russia and could result in jail time for their members. “The darkest times are beginning for free-thinking people, for civil society in Russia,” said Leonid Volkov, Mr. Navalny’s regional office head.

Molly Aronson

I'm an award-winning blogger who enjoys all things creative but is especially passionate about lifestyle design. I blog over at mehlogy.com I love that I get to share my passion for healthy living, fashion, fitness, and travel with readers from all over the world.

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