Alexei Navalny Tests for Covid-19 Following Hunger Strike

Published April 6th, 2021 - 08:15 GMT
Navalny is suffering from bad illness amid hunger strike
In this file photo taken on February 20, 2021 Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny stands inside a glass cell during a court hearing at the Babushkinsky district court in Moscow. Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny announced on March 31, 2021 that he has gone on hunger strike until he receives proper medical treatment for severe back pain and numbness in his legs. Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP
Alexi Navalny, 44, has vowed to continue a hunger strike he started last week

Alexei Navalny has been moved to a sick ward with symptoms of a respiratory illness and has been tested for Covid-19 following his hunger strike at a Russian prison.

The jailed Kremlin critic, 44, had a high temperature and cough and also claimed there was a tuberculosis outbreak on his ward that had hospitalised three people.

The politician joked in an Instagram post that catching the disease might offer him relief from his other ailments after a week-long hunger strike to protest his conditions in the prison.

'If I have tuberculosis, then maybe it'll chase out the pain in my back and numbness in my legs. That'd be nice,' he wrote on Instagram.

He said that prison authorities had measured his temperature at 38.1 degrees Celsius and he had a bad cough.

Hours later, Izvestia, a pro-Kremlin newspaper, cited a statement by the federal prison service saying that he had been moved to a sick ward and had various tests, including for the coronavirus.

The Izvestia report did not say where the sick ward was, but one of his lawyers said it appeared to be within the IK-2 corrective penal colony 60 miles east of Moscow where he was being held, the TV Rain outlet reported.

Navalny has accused prison authorities there of depriving him of sleep by waking him up hourly at night and refusing to give him proper medical care.

Prison authorities deny sleep deprivation and have said previously that Navalny's condition was satisfactory and that he has been provided with all necessary treatment. The prison holding him did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

His allies said late last week that they would stage a rolling protest outside his prison from Tuesday unless he was examined by a doctor of his choice and given what they regard as proper medicine.

They claim he had already lost 18lb before going on hunger strike - down from the 205lb he weighed when he arrived at his penal colony - due to sleep deprivation. 

Pro-Kremlin media and some members of a prison monitoring group have accused him of faking his medical problems to keep himself in the public eye - allegations which are denied by Navalny and his allies.

Navalny's lawyers have visited him regularly in custody and have helped him continue to post messages on social media.

Amnesty International's secretary general, Agnes Callamard, said she had appealed to Putin over Navalny's 'arbitrary arrest and deteriorating health condition'.

'There is a real prospect that #Russia is subjecting him to a slow death. He must be granted immediate access to a medical doctor he trusts and he must be freed,' she wrote on Twitter.

State media and some members of a prison monitoring group have accused Navalny of faking his medical problems to keep himself in the public eye, which Navalny and his allies deny.  

Two reports in pro-Kremlin outlets described Navalny as looking 'quite normal' and saying he is incarcerated in a 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 15 in his unit had been hospitalised with tuberculosis since his arrival at the penal colony in February. 

He joked: 'I am surprised that there is no Ebola virus here, such is our ideal, exemplary colony'

He added: 'I quote the official statistics of today's temperature measurement: "Navalny A.A., bad cough, temperature 38.1".' A temperature above 38C (100.58F) most often indicates a fever caused by an infection or illness. 


Anastasiya Vasilyeva, a doctor and ally of Navalny, confirmed plans for a protest would take place from Tuesday.

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. 

He was arrested as he returned to Russia from Germany in January, where he had been recovering from what doctors said was poisoning with a nerve agent. The West has demanded that Russia release Navalny. 

Russia's relations with the West are at their lowest since the end of the Cold War, marred by allegations of election interference and sweeping cyberattacks.

Last week, video footage on Twitter appeared to show Russia sending trains filled with tanks and military vehicles into Crimea and toward Donbass, Ukraine's easternmost region that borders Russia.

It comes as the Russian government announced on Monday that Vladimir Putin has signed a law that could keep him in office in the Kremlin until 2036.

The legislation allows the Russian President to run for two more six-year terms once his current stint ends in 2024, following changes to the constitution last year.

Those changes were backed in a public vote last summer and could allow Putin, 68, to potentially remain in power until the age of 83. He is currently serving his second consecutive term as president and his fourth in total.

The reform, which critics cast as a constitutional coup, was packaged with an array of other amendments that were expected to garner popular support, such as one bolstering pension protections.

The law signed by Putin limits any future president to two terms in office, but resets his term count. It prevents anyone who has held foreign citizenship from running for the Kremlin.

The legislation was passed in the lower and upper houses of parliament last month.

This article has been adapted from its original source.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

You may also like


Sign up to our newsletter for exclusive updates and enhanced content