Prison doctors have decided to transfer Russia’s main opposition leader Alexei Navalny to hospital, its prison authority said on Monday (April 19), 20 days into a hunger strike that has brought international warnings of consequences should he die in jail.
Allies of Navalny, who have had no access to him since last week, said they were braced for bad news about his health. They are planning mass countrywide demonstrations later this week.
Navalny’s case has further isolated Moscow at a time when U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has announced tougher economic sanctions and the Czech Republic, an EU and NATO member, has expelled Russian spies, accusing Moscow of a role in deadly 2014 explosions at an arms storage depot.
Russia’s prison service said in a statement that a decision had been taken to transfer Navalny, 44, to a regional prison hospital, although it did not make clear whether the transfer had already taken place.
It said his condition was “satisfactory” and he was being given “vitamin therapy” with his consent.
Navalny, an anti-corruption campaigner who achieved fame with viral videos cataloguing the vast wealth accumulated by senior Russian officials he brands “swindlers and thieves,” is serving a 2-1/2 year sentence on old embezzlement charges that he calls trumped up.
He was arrested on returning to Russia in January after recuperating in Germany from what German authorities say was poisoning with a banned nerve agent in Russia, which he and Western governments called an attempted assassination. The Kremlin denies any blame.
Navalny went on hunger strike on March 31 to protest against what he said was the refusal of the prison authorities to provide him treatment for leg and back pain. Russia says he has been treated well and is exaggerating illness to gain attention.