After 20 days of hunger strike that sparked a new wave of international criticism and warnings against Russia, Alexei Navalni, opposing President Vladimir Putin, was transferred to a hospital on Monday (19).
According to the Russian prison administration, the state of health of Navalni, 44, is considered “satisfactory” – although the criteria for this assessment are not clear – and the opponent had received, in a consensual manner, a ” vitamin therapy ”.
The opponent announced the start of a hunger strike on March 31, after denouncing that officials at the penal colony where he is imprisoned, 100 km from Moscow, had refused access to adequate medical treatment and adopted practices which he assimilated to torture.
One of Navalni’s lawyers, Alexei Lipster, confirmed the transfer to Reuters news agency. “Yes, he’s there. They won’t refuse to let me find him, but I still couldn’t get in. I’m waiting.”
The apparent concession of the Russian authorities does not arouse optimism among Navalni’s allies. “I think there is no hope of getting any good news about your health today. I think your condition is really close to critical, close to being very serious. Twenty days on hunger strike – that’s a lot, “Liubov Sobol said in an interview with a radio station.
For Ivan Zhdanov, head of the Anti-Corruption Foundation created by Putin’s opponent, the transfer “can only be understood as a worsening of Navalni’s condition, which has worsened so much that even the torturer admits it. “.
Last Saturday (17), doctors who follow Navalni from a distance said he could go into cardiac arrest at any time, due to a lack of nutrients in his body.
The alerts kept the international community’s yellow signals on. US President Joe Biden called the activist’s arrest totally unfair. Next, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in an interview with CNN that “there will be consequences if Navalni dies” and Ned Price, a State Department spokesman, stressed that Russian officials are responsible for the health of the opponent.
The European Union has also taken a stand. In a statement released on Sunday (18), Josep Borrell, the bloc’s foreign minister, called on Russian authorities to grant Navalni “immediate access to trusted health professionals” and again demanded “his immediate release. and unconditional “.
“The Navalni affair is not an isolated incident, but it confirms a negative pattern of less and less space for the opposition, for civil society and for independent voices in the Russian Federation,” the text said.
On Monday, the situation of Putin’s opponent was on the agenda of the European Chancellors’ discussion. Ahead of the meeting, Borrell again said Russia was responsible for Navalni’s health, while other members of the group also spoke out.
“Act now, otherwise Navalni’s blood will remain in your hands forever,” said Manfred Weber, who heads the largest group in the European Parliament, the European People’s Party. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas welcomed the transfer of the activist, but said his country would “follow very closely” the next events.
The Kremlin has not publicly commented on the new US and European attacks, but has sent a message to the thousands of people who are planning what they promise to be the biggest protests in modern Russian history for this week. : Any unauthorized demonstration against Putin and in favor of Navalni will be considered illegal.
Shortly before the announcement of the opponent’s transfer, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he had no information about his state of health and, once again, exonerated Putin of all responsibility. , claiming that the president could not take any action to monitor the situation. health of Russian prisoners.
Blogger and lawyer, Navalni appeared in the public arena during protests against Putin in 2012. The following year, he ran for mayor in Moscow and won 27% of the vote. But it was in 2017 that he appeared to the world, commanding via the Internet the call for a day of protests that united thousands of people in the streets of Russia. Due to legal proceedings, he was not allowed to appear against Putin in 2018.
He then moved on to another tactic: to favor any candidacy at the regional level as opposed to United Russia, the party in power. He achieved symbolic successes in the local elections of 2019 and 2020, and his return to Russia was seen as preparation for the shock of the parliamentary elections in September. Now, with him in prison, his wife, Iulia Navalnaia, is expected to rise to prominence in the face of Putin.
Navalni was poisoned in August 2020 and directly accused Putin of the assassination attempt. He was treated in Berlin, where doctors said they found traces of Novichok, a famous poison used by the Russian secret service, on his body.
Next, Navalni released the recording of a prank call he gave to one of the FSB (Federal Security Service, successor to the KGB) agents named as the perpetrators of the attack – in him, the The spy believes he is talking to a superior and admits to putting poison in the activist’s underwear of the man in a hotel room. The Kremlin denies any involvement, and Putin joked that if Russia had wanted to kill Navalni, it would have done so.
The opponent was arrested in January, returning to Russia after being treated in Germany for poisoning. The activist is formally accused of violating the conditions of his probation by leaving the country, even though the release occurred for medical reasons – he was in a coma.
Navalni was sentenced to jail for commuted fraud in 2014, in a trial he calls judicial harassment. Although nominally independent, the Russian judiciary is aligned with the Kremlin.
Russian courts last month upheld the verdict of the anti-corruption activist. In total, he was sentenced to three and a half years in prison, of which he has already served ten months at home.