The United States and the European Union increased the pressure on Russia on Sunday (18), due to the poor health of Alexei Navalni, Putin’s main opponent, held in a penal colony.
Navalni, 44, went on a hunger strike on March 31 and calls for access to adequate medical care for his back pain and numbness in his hands and legs. He is being held in a penal colony in the city of Pokrov, about 100 km east of Moscow, known as one of the toughest in Russia.
On Saturday (17), medics accompanying Navalni remotely said he could go into cardiac arrest at any time, due to the lack of nutrients in his body.
“There will be consequences if Navalni dies,” US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told CNN. And Ned Price, a spokesman for US diplomacy, stressed that Russian officials are responsible for the health of the adversary. On Saturday, the President of the United States, Joe Biden, had already judged the opponent’s situation as totally unfair.
The European Union has also taken a stand. The bloc’s command said it was deeply concerned and called for his immediate release. On Monday, EU foreign ministers will discuss the opponent’s situation and what action could be taken.
“The whole world is talking about Alexei. And only Putin and the prison doctors claim that there is nothing wrong,” Navalny spokeswoman Kira Iarmych said on Twitter.
There was no immediate reaction from the Kremlin, although Russian Ambassador to London Andrei Kelin said “he will not be allowed to die in prison”. “But I can say that Mr. Navalny is behaving like a thug,” he told the BBC.
Navalny’s team called for large protests in Russia on Sunday to help save his life. The mobilisations are scheduled for Wednesday evening, hours after President Vladimir Putin delivered his annual State of the Nation address to parliament.
The authorities, however, increased the pressure on Navalni supporters. More than 10,000 protesters were arrested between January and February.
Russian prosecutors on Friday (16) called on a court to view Navalni’s anti-corruption foundation and its network of regional offices as extremist organizations, a move that aims to prevent these institutions from operating in Russia and could lead to the arrest of their members. members and even their supporters.
A website created by the opposition a few weeks ago to register citizens wishing to demonstrate had about 460,000 people on Sunday.
Navalni was arrested on his return to Russia after several months in Germany, where he was recovering from poisoning for which he blames the Russian authorities. He 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. The opponent received a commutation sentence for commuted fraud in 2014, in an action he describes as judicial harassment.
Although nominally independent, the Russian judiciary is aligned with the Kremlin.
The country’s justice system upheld the activist’s conviction last month. In total, he was sentenced to three and a half years in prison, of which he has already served ten months at home.
Before going on a hunger strike, he said he was deprived of sleep by guards who woke him up every hour during the night. Prison officials did not deny that the practice was being adopted, but said it was necessary because there was a risk of escape.