Doctors deny access to a “very weak” Navalny as supporters prepare to protest

Alexei Navalny’s doctors were again denied access to the imprisoned Kremlin critic on Tuesday because lawyers for the hunger-striking opposition figure said he was “very weak” and demanded he be transferred to a civilian hospital.

A team of doctors has been trying to meet the 44-year-old since the beginning of this month, after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most outspoken opponent began refusing food on March 31 to demand proper medical treatment for an illness of diseases.

The United States tried to increase pressure again on Tuesday and called on Russia “immediately” to allow independent doctors to see Navalny.

“We urge them to have immediate access to necessary and independent medical care,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price.

Russian authorities were “responsible for his deteriorating health,” he added.

Nearly three weeks into his hunger strike over the weekend, doctors warned over the weekend that Navalny’s health was deteriorating so rapidly that he could die “every minute,” and Washington threatened Moscow with “consequences” in the event of his death.

Navalny’s lawyer Olga Mikhailova told reporters outside the prison hospital on Tuesday afternoon that he had become “very weak” and that “it is difficult for him to speak and sit up”.

This assessment came after a team of doctors, including Navalny’s personal physician Anastasia Vasilyeva, traveled to the prison’s medical facility outside Moscow on Tuesday morning, where Navalny was moved this week but prevented from seeing him.

Mikhailova and another lawyer were given access. They said Navalny had agreed to a drop in glucose and received one on Sunday, but noted that nurses had failed several times to find his vein, citing evidence that the prison force was not up to the task.

“Medical care in this specific case is not provided,” Mikhailova said.

“He must be transferred to a civilian hospital in Moscow so that he can get all the necessary help to prevent him from dying here.”

In an Instagram post published after the lawyers visited Navalny, he compared himself to a “skeleton that wandered in a cell”.

‘Allow a doctor to see my dad’

Concerns are growing in the west over Navalny’s condition.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday said that Berlin “is working to ensure that he receives proper medical care”.

“We are very worried and trying to use our influence,” she said.

Navalny’s family members have also spoken out in recent days.

“Allow a doctor to see my father,” his daughter Dasha Navalnaya tweeted on Sunday.

In an Instagram post on Tuesday, Kremlin critic’s mother Lyudmila Navalnaya called on the authorities to “receive independent, civilian doctors for Alexei”.

However, the Kremlin has dismissed the foreign outcry, saying Navalny does not deserve special treatment.

Navalny is serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence for violating conditions of old fraud that he says are politically motivated.

He was arrested in January when he returned to Russia from Germany, where he had spent months recovering from a poisoning attack with Novichok’s nerve agent. He blames the attack on Putin, a claim that the Kremlin has repeatedly denied.

The European Union and the United States have imposed sanctions on Russia over the poisoning and on Monday threatened Moscow with further sanctions in the event of Navalny’s death.

Growing pressure

Navalny began his hunger strike and demanded proper medical treatment due to severe back pain and numbness in his legs.

His team said over the weekend that blood tests showed that Navalny could suffer from impaired kidney function and risked cardiac arrest.

Russia’s prison service insisted that his condition was “satisfactory”, despite moving to the medical facility, and said he was taking vitamin supplements as part of his treatment.

Navalny’s team has urged supporters to take to the streets on Wednesday – when Putin will deliver his annual national speech – to protest his treatment.

On Tuesday, it said meetings would take place in more than 100 cities across the country, as Moscow officials said they had denied the team’s request to hold a protest in the capital due to the coronavirus pandemic.

His team added that police were looking for their offices in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, home of their coordinator in the southern city of Belgorad, and had detained another coordinator in the Ural city of Kurgan.

It added that a third of the southern city of Volgograd was ordered to be held behind bars for 25 days.

“They have started imprisoning our coordinators for a gathering that has not yet happened,” the team tweeted.