Putin Critic Alexei Navalny Ends Hunger Strike In Prison, Thanks Supporters
People gathered to support Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny and demand for his release from prison in Moscow. Krakow, Poland on January 23, 2021. Navalny who is currently held in pre-trial custody was detained at a Moscow airport late Sunday after arriving from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from Novichok poisoning he blamed on the Russian government. (Photo by Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto)
Photo by Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny announced Friday that he will be ending his hunger strike after refusing to eat for around 24 days in protest of lack of medical care from his personal doctors while in prison.

According to The New York Times, “Mr. Navalny said he halted his hunger strike on the advice of his doctors and because his demands had been partially met.”

In an Instagram post, Navalny confirmed that he would reverse his hunger strike over the course of 24 days, which is about as long as he refused to eat.

NPR reported that he thanked the “good people” in Russia and around the world. “My heart is full of love and gratitude for you,” he said, thanking “good, not indifferent people around the world.”

“I am not withdrawing my request to allow the necessary specialist to see me,” the opposition leader said. “I’m losing sensation in parts of my arms and legs, and I want to understand what it is and how to treat it.”

“But considering the progress made and all the circumstances, I’m beginning to come out of my hunger strike,” he added.

CNN reported that in an Instagram post released by his team on Tuesday, Navalny joked about his condition, saying, “If you were to see me now, you would have a laugh. A walking skeleton, staggering around the cell.”

Regarding the concern of doctors that his blood had dangerously high levels of potassium, he said, “You can’t just take me so easily. After [the chemical nerve agent] ‘Novichok’ even potassium is not so terrible.”

In announcing the end of his strike, he said that efforts by the public helped him to be examined by doctors twice recently. On Wednesday, more than a thousand protesters were arrested in Russia after demonstrations were held across the country to support Navalny and speak out against Russian President Vladimir Putin, NPR reported.

Navalny was sentenced to prison after returning to Moscow from Germany where he was undergoing treatment for poisoning from a nerve agent that he blames on the Kremlin. The Kremlin has denied any responsibility for his poisoning, but United States intelligence officials have “concluded with high confidence that Navalny was poisoned last year with a banned nerve agent called Novichok by the Russian security services,” according to Politico.

Last month, Navalny released documents saying that his medical condition was worsening while he was in prison and that he was a victim of sleep deprivation. He announced that he would start a hunger strike in order to receive medical care.

On Monday, Navalny was moved to a penal colony medical facility during his strike. According to reporting by NPR, Russian prison officials said that Navalny has been transferred to a medical ward at a prison apart from the one where he was being detained. He would go through “vitamin therapy” while there, they said.

Days before he was moved to the ward, The Associated Press reported that one of Navalny’s doctors said he “could die at any moment” in a Facebook post after he looked at test results he received from Navalny’s family. The results reportedly showed “sharply elevated levels of potassium, which can bring on cardiac arrest, and heightened creatinine levels that indicate impaired kidneys,” AP reported.

A top member of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, FBK, Maria Pevchikh, tweeted that people should stop saying that Navalny “has been transferred to a hospital.”

“It’s not a hospital, it’s just a different penal colony that has the same torturous conditions, same everything, apart from the fact that there are few formally qualified doctors on-site. This changes nothing,” she wrote on Twitter.

United States officials spoke out against the treatment of Navalny. On Sunday, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told CNN that the Biden administration was looking at options to punish Russia if Navalny died in prison.

“We have communicated to the Russian government that what happens to Mr. Navalny in their custody is their responsibility and they will be held accountable by the international community,” Sullivan said. “In terms of the specific measures that we would take, we are looking at a variety of different costs that we would impose and I’m not going to telegraph that publicly at this point … But we have communicated that there will be consequences if Mr. Navalny dies.”

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