Jailed Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny said on Friday he would begin gradually ending a hunger strike he had called to demand proper medical care, suggesting that support inside Russia and the West had got him much of what he needed.
Navalny announced an end to his hunger strike on its 24th day after a medical trade union that supports him and which has treated him in the past appealed to him to start eating again or risk death.
The worsening health of Navalny, President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent domestic opponent, and the authorities’ initial failure to give him the treatment he demanded had triggered a Western diplomatic offensive designed to cajole Moscow to make concessions.
In an Instagram post arranged via his lawyers on Friday, the 44-year-old opposition politician said he was still demanding that he be seen by a doctor of his own choosing and that he was losing feeling in parts of his legs and arms.
He said, however, that he had been twice seen by civilian doctors and undergone tests. He added it would take him 24 days to gradually end the hunger strike and thanked the “good people” in Russia and around the world for their support.
“Thank you – I have now been examined twice by a panel of civilian doctors … They are doing tests and analyses and giving me the results and conclusions,” he wrote.
“I am not withdrawing my request to allow the necessary doctor to see me – I am losing feeling in areas of my arms and legs, and I want to understand what it is and how to treat it, but considering the progress and all the circumstances, I am beginning to come out of the hunger strike,” he wrote.
Navalny launched his hunger strike on March 31 after saying that prison authorities had refused him access to a doctor of his choosing despite his complaints of acute back and leg pain.
Authorities in the IK-2 correctional facility some 100km (60 miles) east of Moscow, where Navalny is serving out a two and a half year sentence for a conviction he and his supporters say is politically motivated, said they had offered him prison medical care but that he had refused.
His supporters said he had refused it because it was substandard and, in some cases, outdated and dangerous.
Thousands of Navalny’s supporters protested in cities across Russia on Wednesday to demand he get proper care and be freed and the United States had warned Moscow it would face “consequences” if he died in jail.
Navalny survived a poison attack with a nerve agent last year, which Russia denied carrying out.