04/01/2021, 13.03
RUSSIA
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Navalny goes on hunger strike to protest against prison conditions

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The jailed political leader wants a medical examination for pain in various parts of the body, a likely consequence of last year's poisoning. Putin's adversary, who has been placed in isolation, has also complained of “sleep torture”. For external doctors, without proper care, he could lose a leg.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – Alexey Navalny began a hunger strike yesterday to protest the conditions of his detention.

Russia’s opposition leader is being held in penal colony IK-2 in Pokrov. Over the past week, he has asked to see a doctor for back and leg pain, a likely consequence of last year's Novichok poisoning. So far, the prison doctor has simply given him a few painkillers.

He has also reported being subjected to a form of “sleep torture”: at night he is woken every hour with loud calls from a loudspeaker to ensure that he is present in his cell. As a result, he cannot sleep normally.

After repeatedly reprimanding and punishing him for breaking the rules, most notably for “refusing to sleep the regular eight hours”, prison authorities have designated him as a high risk for escape, and placed him in isolation.

After his first complaints about pains in various parts of his body, a group of observers, appointed by Vladimir's regional administration, examined Navalny on 27 March.

The head of the delegation, Vyacheslav Kulikov, noted that the prisoner “complains, but is able to walk alone. However, we have asked the prison doctors to pay more attention to him.”

Navalny’s lawyers have made several requests for assistance, which have been ignored so far. On Tuesday, The Insider website reported that some 20 prominent Russian doctors from various cities signed an appeal, urging Russian authorities to provide the prisoner with medical care.

The doctors are asking for test results to be released, and made available to civilian and German doctors, in order to be able to effectively assess the prisoner’s pain and the possible consequences of last year’s events.

From Germany, Navalny went back to Russia before fully completing his treatment programme; at worst, doctors warn, he could lose a leg.

On Monday, media reported the death of another doctor from the Omsk hospital where Navalny was initially treated after he was poisoned. Dr Rustam Agishev, 63, the deputy chief of the Department of Traumatology and Orthopaedics, died of a sudden heart attack, the Tajga.info reported.

For Dr Yevgeny Osipov, chief physician at the Omsk hospital, this is “an immeasurable loss for the entire medical community, after 30 years of indefatigable service.”

This death comes after Sergey Maximishin, deputy chief physician of the same medical facility, also suddenly died in February. In October 2020, another deputy chief physician at the hospital, Anatoly Kalinichenko, quit his job.

The two physicians were among the medical staff who first treated Navalny, initially reporting poisoning as the cause of his condition, a diagnosis quickly denied by the hospital, but later confirmed by testing carried out in Germany.

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