Russian police on Tuesday detained Alexey Navalny’s personal doctor amid a demonstration outside of his prison calling for him to be given medical care.
Fears have grown for Navalny’s health after the Kremlin critic said in an Instagram post that he was suffering from a high temperature and bad cough, adding that three inmates in his ward had been hospitalised with tuberculosis.
Anastasia Vasilyeva, who had claimed Navalny needed to go to a “specialised hospital” and warned it was “quite possible” he may have been infected with coronavirus, was detained as the rally got under way.
Another Navalny supporter was also detained, Reuters reported. It was not immediately clear why they were held.
The fears over Navalny’s health follow his announcement last week of a hunger strike in protest against what he said was the refusal of prison authorities to treat him for acute back and leg pain.
His allies have called for him to be able to see a doctor of his choice and be provided with “sufficient treatment”.
However, the state prison service has said Navalny has been moved to a sickbay and was tested for the coronavirus.
It also claims his condition is satisfactory and that he has been given necessary medical care.
Weighing in on the issue on Tuesday, the Kremlin said he would be treated as appropriate, like any other prisoner if he was ill.
State media and some members of a prison monitoring group had previously accused Navalny of faking his medical problems to keep himself in the public eye.
‘He is innocent’
Ahead of Tuesday’s rally, security was stepped up near the prison.
Police officers, one with a police dog, set up a makeshift checkpoint in front of the prison gate and used a metal barrier to block a nearby road.
They closed the parking lot to all but prison staff and checked the IDs of reporters and prison workers.
Antonina Romanova, a Navalny supporter, said she would attend the protest in a show of solidarity.
“I believe he is innocent. I’m fully on his side,” Romanova told Reuters. “It happens that, for some reason, the people who can sort things out in the country end up in jail.”
Navalny was arrested in January upon his return from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin.
Russian authorities have rejected the accusation.
In February, Navalny was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for violating the terms of his probation while convalescing in Germany.
The sentence stems from a 2014 embezzlement conviction that Navalny has rejected as fabricated, and which the European Сourt of Human Rights has deemed unlawful.
Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in cities and towns across Russia in January to demand Navalny’s release.
The wave of demonstrations was the largest show of public dissent in the country in years and posed a major challenge to the Kremlin, which considers the protests illegal.