MOSCOW (AP) – A lawyer for jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who complained of severe back and leg pain in detention, said on Wednesday that doctors found him suffering from two spinal hernias.
Vadim Kobzev told the Interfax news agency that Navalny also had a spinal protrusion and was starting to lose feeling in his hands.
Navalny went on a hunger strike last week to protest what he called poor medical care in a Russian prison. On Tuesday, the leader of the Navalny-backed Alliance of Doctors union was arrested by police after trying to enter the prison to speak to doctors.
Navalny, 44, is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest opponent. He was arrested in January on his return from Germany to Moscow, where he spent five months recovering from poisoning with a nerve agent he attributes to the Kremlin. Russian authorities have dismissed the accusation. Yet labs in Germany and elsewhere in Europe have confirmed that Navalny was poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok.
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A Russian court ordered Navalny in February to serve 2.5 years in prison for violating the terms of his probation, including when he was recovering in Germany, after a conviction for embezzlement in 2014. Navalny rejected the conviction as fabricated and the European Court of Human Rights found it “arbitrary and patently unreasonable”.
Navalny said in an Instagram post on Wednesday that prison officials tried to undermine his hunger strike by allowing aromatic chicken to be cooked in his unit’s kitchen, deviating from regulations and placing candy in his pockets. .
“Do you know what turned out to be the most important in the first stage of the hunger strike in the prisons? Check your pockets, ”he wrote.
Navalny’s imprisonment drew wide criticism from the West. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Wednesday: “We urge the Russian authorities to take all necessary measures to ensure his safety and health,” adding that “we consider the imprisonment of Mr. Navalny on false accusations as a political motive and grave injustice we stand with allies and like-minded partners in calling for his immediate release. “
Last month, authorities transferred Navalny from a Moscow prison to the IK-2 penal colony in the Vladimir region, 85 kilometers east of the Russian capital. The establishment in the town of Pokrov stands out among Russian penitentiaries for its particularly strict detention habits, which include standing at attention for hours.
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Weeks after being jailed, Navalny said he developed severe back and leg pain and was indeed deprived of sleep because a guard watched him hourly at night. He went on a hunger strike on March 31, demanding access to appropriate medication and a visit from his doctor.
The Russian state prison service said Navalny was receiving all the medical help he needed.
Another lawyer for Navalny, Olga Mikhailova, said a neurologist consulted by Navalny’s organization said the treatment prescribed in the prison was ineffective.
Navalny said Monday that three of the 15 people he is staying with have been diagnosed with tuberculosis, a contagious disease that spreads through the air. He said he had a strong cough and fever with a temperature of 38.1 degrees Celsius (100.6 F).
On Monday, the state prison service said Navalny had been the prison health unit after a health check showed him “signs of respiratory illness, including a high fever.”
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Mikhailova said on Wednesday that Navalny’s fever has gone down, but he is still coughing and weak from the hunger strike.
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