Alexei Navalny transferred to prison hospital 20 days into hunger strike

The US has warned Russia of serious repercussions if the infamous Putin critic dies.
The US has warned Russia of serious repercussions if the infamous Putin critic dies. Photo credit: Getty

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been transferred to a prison hospital 20 days into a hunger strike that has led the US to warn Moscow of serious repercussions if he should die in jail.

Navalny's lawyer Alexei Liptser said after visiting him in the hospital of penal colony No. 3 in the city of Vladimir, east of Moscow, that his health was deteriorating and he had again been denied access to his own doctors.

"All the symptoms that he had before, they remain the same. Numbness in the arms and legs, back pain - they aren't going away...The situation is only getting worse," Liptser told Reuters.

Russia's prison service said Navalny, 44, was in a "satisfactory" state and he was being given "vitamin therapy" with his consent.

The Kremlin said it did not have information on Navalny's condition and it was not the role of President Vladimir Putin to monitor the health of prisoners.

Liptser said Navalny looked weak and thinner. He said he had been searched for two hours on arrival at the penal colony. "All that naturally has a negative effect on a starving man who already had no strength."

Navalny ally Leonid Volkov said the transfer had taken place on Sunday, without the politician's supporters being informed.

Ivan Zhdanov, head of Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation, said on Twitter the move "can only be understood to mean Navalny's condition has worsened, and worsened in such a way that even the torturer admits it".

The Navalny camp plans mass countrywide demonstrations on Wednesday from Kaliningrad in Russia's far west to Vladivostok on its Pacific coast.

Russian authorities, who have broken up previous allies and arrested thousands of people, said the planned protests were illegal and warned people not to take to the streets.

Navalny, an anti-corruption campaigner who has catalogued the vast wealth accumulated by senior Russian officials he brands "swindlers and thieves", is serving a two-and-a-half year sentence on old embezzlement charges he calls trumped up.

He was arrested on his return to Russia in January after treatment in Germany for what German authorities say was poisoning in Russia with a banned nerve agent. He and Western governments called this an attempted assassination. The Kremlin denies any blame.

Navalny went on hunger strike on 31 March to protest against what he said was the refusal of prison authorities to provide him with treatment for leg and back pain. Russia says he has been treated well and is exaggerating illness to gain attention.

The United States imposed new sanctions on Russia last Thursday over alleged malign actions, denied by Moscow, including interference in last year's presidential election, cyberhacking, and bullying of neighbouring Ukraine.

Russia replied with sanctions of its own a day later.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Sunday that Washington had told Moscow "there will be consequences" if Navalny dies in prison, but did not mention specifics.

The Kremlin said on Monday it would retaliate for any further sanctions and rejected foreign countries' statements on the Navalny case. "The state of health of those convicted and jailed on Russian territory cannot and should not be a theme of their interest," spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.