Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny has said that being woken up by a guard every hour during the night amounted to ‘sleep deprivation torture’ and that for treatment for acute back and leg pain had been refused in a deliberate attempt to run him down.
Navalny, one of President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critics, made the allegations in two official appeals to the authorities which he passed to his lawyers who visited him at the IK-2 corrective penal colony 100 km (60 miles) east of Moscow.
“I consider the deterioration of my health to be the direct consequence of the actions and inaction of employees of the Federal Penitentiary Service deliberately aimed at denying me proper medical care and undermining my health,” he wrote.
The 44-year-old Navalny was arrested on January 17 upon his return from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from what doctors said was a nerve-agent poisoning, that he blames on the Kremlin. Russian authorities have rejected the accusation.
Earlier on Thursday, European Union members Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia called on Russia to grant medical care to Navalny “as soon as possible”, according to the foreign ministers of the three countries.
“Disturbing reports on Navalny health condition. Access to health care is a basic right even of political prisoners,” the ministers posted on Twitter. “We call on international community and [EU leaders] to speak up too.”
Disturbing reports on @Navalny health condition. Access to health care is a basic right even of political prisoners. We,🇱🇻🇪🇪🇱🇹, call on #Russian authorities to grant @Navalny medical care asap. We call on international community and #EUCO to speak up too.
— Edgars Rinkēvičs (@edgarsrinkevics) March 25, 2021
Leonid Volkov, a close Navalny ally based in Lithuania, has said Navalny began to experience serious back pain last week, felt a numbness in his leg and has been unable to stand on it. He was given two ibuprofen pills for the pain, Volkov said.
The Federal Penitentiary Service said earlier on Thursday that the 44-year-old opposition politician’s health was stable and satisfactory.
It said prisons in the Vladimir region, where Navalny is being held, had carried out medical examinations on inmates on Wednesday.
The checks had been conducted at inmates’ request, it said, and Navalny had been examined, too.
“His health is deemed stable and satisfactory, according to the results of the examination,” the penitentiary service said, according to the Interfax news agency.
Nearly 160 cultural figures, including writers, musicians and film directors, published an open letter to the authorities on Thursday demanding Navalny’s lawyers be given access to him and that he be held in normal conditions.
They said they had “serious grounds to be concerned about his health and life”.
The West, including the European Court of Human Rights, has demanded Russia release Navalny. Moscow dismissed the court’s ruling as “unlawful” and has called similar appeals unacceptable interference in its internal affairs.
Navalny’s allies on Tuesday announced plans to stage what they hope will be the biggest anti-Kremlin street protest in modern Russian history soon, in a bid to have him released. The authorities have said such protests are illegal.