The health of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny is deteriorating as he keeps up his hunger strike in prison, with a new numbness in his hands, according to his lawyers.
The development came on Wednesday, a week after President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent opponent – who is serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence on embezzlement charges – stopped taking food to demand proper medical treatment for severe back pain and numbness in his legs.
Members of Navalny’s defence team, who on Wednesday visited him in his penal colony in the town of Pokrov 100km (60 miles) east of the capital, Moscow, said he was still refusing to eat and was coughing.
“He looks bad; he’s not feeling well,” lawyer Olga Mikhailova told the AFP news agency, adding that Navalny now weighs “about 80” kilogrammes (176 pounds).
Navalny, who is 189cm (six feet, two inches) tall, weighed 93 kilogrammes (205 pounds) when he arrived at his penal colony last month.
“No one is going to treat him,” Mikhailova said.
The 44-year-old’s lawyers and allies are demanding that he be transferred to a “normal” hospital, but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said that Navalny is not entitled to any special treatment.
Another member of the opposition politician’s team, Vadim Kobzev, said Navalny was losing a kilogramme a day.
Taking to Twitter, Kobzev said Navalny felt pain when he walked and was now also feeling a numbness in his hands in addition to back pain and a loss of sensation in his legs.
“It’s clear that his illness is getting worse,” Kobzev wrote.
Earlier this week, Navalny said he had a cough and fever and that three members of his prison unit had been hospitalised with tuberculosis.
Also on Wednesday, the White House said reports on Navalny’s health were disturbing and urged Russian authorities to ensure his safety and health.
“We are disturbed by reports that Mr Navalny’s health is worsening. We urge Russian authorities to take all necessary actions to ensure his safety. So long as he is in prison, the Russian government is responsible for his health and wellbeing,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at a briefing.
Navalny was arrested in January after returning from Germany, where he spent months recovering from a poisoning attack with Novichok nerve agent, which he blames on the Kremlin.
He is serving the sentence for breaching the parole terms of a suspended sentence on old fraud charges, which he says are politically motivated.
Rights campaigners say the Pokrov penal colony is known for its especially harsh conditions, and Navalny himself has called it a “concentration camp”.