Russia's Alexey Navalny 'is dying' in prison, allies call for nationwide protests

Grant Boone
April 19, 2021

Leonid Volkov, a top strategist for Navalny, said the demonstrations were called on short notice for Wednesday because "his life hangs in the balance".

"Things are developing too quickly and too badly", his allies wrote in a statement on Navalny's website, announcing their plans for nationwide street demonstrations that they portrayed as a bid to win him life-saving medical care and as a protest over a crackdown on his supporters.

The protests, which the authorities regard as illegal and have broken up with force in the past, are planned for the same day as President Vladimir Putin gives an annual state-of-the-nation speech to the political elite.

Hunger-striking Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny "will not be allowed to die in prison", the Russian ambassador in London tells the BBC.

"Russia, the Russian authorities, may be placing him into a situation of a slow death and seeking to hide what is happening to him".

Last week, Russian Foreign Ministry's spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said that the United States is making up "stories" about Navalny's detention conditions while the USA itself continues to violate the rights of prisoners.

Sullivan said Washington is "looking at a variety of different costs that we would impose. if Mr Navalny dies", while refusing to go into specifics.

On Saturday, Navalny's doctors said his health had rapidly deteriorated and demanded prison officials grant them immediate access.

There was no immediate comment from police or government officials about the call for protests, but the response is likely to be harsh.

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The sanctions are certain to exacerbate tensions with Russian Federation , which promised a retaliatory response. About 10 Russian diplomats are expected to be expelled according to another senior administration official.

France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had earlier said the situation was "extremely concerning" and that Putin held a "major responsibility".

The U.S. State Department also called for Russian Federation to immediately give Navalny access to medical care.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan attempted to claim the Biden administration is taking a hard stance on Russian Federation over the imprisonment and mistreatment of Alexei Navalny.

"We have communicated to the Russian government that what happens to Mr. Navalny in their custody is their responsibility and they will be held accountable by the global community", Sullivan said.

Sentenced to two and a half years in prison for embezzlement, he began a hunger strike on March 31 demanding medical treatment for back pain and numbness to his hands and legs.

He was arrested in January when he returned to Russian Federation from Germany, where he had been recovering from a nerve agent attack he blamed on Mr Putin.

A still image from CCTV footage published by Life.Ru shows what is said to be jailed Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny speaking with a prison guard at the IK-2 corrective penal colony in the town of Pokrov, Russia, in this image released April 2, 2021.

In light of Navalny's poor health, organizers said they were calling the protest on Wednesday anyway despite being around 40,000 people short of their target. The Kremlin denies the allegation.

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