Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny 'is dying' and could suffer a cardiac arrest at 'any minute', his doctor warned today as medics are barred from the penal colony.
Vladimir Putin's most prominent rival, 44, was imprisoned in February and is serving two-and-a-half years on old embezzlement charges in the town of Pokrov, around 60 miles east of Moscow.
Six months earlier, he barely survived a poisoning with the Novichok nerve agent, which he has blamed on the Kremlin.
"A doctor for imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny says his health is deteriorating rapidly.— Rachel Maddow MSNBC (@maddow) April 18, 2021
Test results show sharply elevated levels of potassium, which can bring on cardiac arrest, and heightened creatinine levels indicating impaired kidneys."https://t.co/3sFqU7BXOy
Then at the end of last month, he went on a hunger strike to demand proper medical treatment for back pain and numbness in his legs and hands.
This may have exacerbated his condition, doctors said, as they asked prison officials to grant them immediate access.
'Our patient can die any minute,' cardiologist Yaroslav Ashikhmin said on Facebook today, pointing to Navalny's high potassium levels and saying he should be moved to intensive care.
'Fatal arrhythmia can develop any minute.'
US President Joe Biden also waded in, telling reporters his treatment was 'totally inappropriate' as he described it as a 'totally, totally unfair' situation.
Having blood potassium levels higher than 6.0 mmol (millimole) per litre usually requires immediate treatment. Navalny's were at 7.1, the doctors said.
'This means both impaired renal function and that serious heart rhythm problems can happen any minute,' said a statement on the Twitter account of Anastasia Vasilyeva, his personal doctor.
The medics said he had to be examined immediately 'taking into account the blood tests and his recent poisoning'.
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 Navalny was restricted and few Russians were aware of what was actually going on with him in prison.
More than 70 prominent international writers, artists and academics, including Jude Law, Vanessa Redgrave and Benedict Cumberbatch, have called on Putin to ensure that Navalny receives proper treatment immediately.
Their appeal was published late Friday by France's Le Monde newspaper.
Navalny's team has earlier announced plans to stage what they said would be 'modern Russia's biggest protest'.
Navalny's allies said they would set a date for the protest once 500,000 supporters had registered with a website. As of Saturday, more than 440,000 people had signed up.
Yarmysh today urged more Russians to sign up, saying that a big rally could help save Navalny's life.
'Putin only reacts to mass street protests,' she added.
Earlier this week, Navalny's wife Yulia, who visited him in the penal colony, said her husband now weighed 168 pounds - down nearly 20 pounds since starting his hunger strike.
Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny’s condition has worsened sharply amid a hunger strike and may die in “a matter of days,” his spokeswoman says https://t.co/mqlXCy9a5T— Bloomberg (@business) April 17, 2021
On Friday, Russian prosecutors asked a court to label Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation and the network of his regional offices 'extremist' organisations 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, the head of Navalny's regional offices.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.