Navalny in ‘critical situation’ in penal colony after suspected poisoning, says aide

Russian opposition leader said to be suffering severe stomach pain, rapid weight loss; ambulance was called last week, but authorities refused to allow him to go to hospital

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny appears on a video screen set up at Moscow City Court, on May 24, 2022. (Russian Federal Penitentiary Service via AP)
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny appears on a video screen set up at Moscow City Court, on May 24, 2022. (Russian Federal Penitentiary Service via AP)

Imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is in a “critical situation” after a suspected poisoning, an aide said Friday.

Ruslan Shaveddinov told The Guardian that Navalny was suffering severe abdominal pain and that last week an ambulance was called to the penal colony where he is being held.

“His situation is critical, we are all very concerned,” Shaveddinov told The Guardian, noting that the Russian authorities will not permit Navalny to be admitted to the hospital.

“We understand that the situation must have been very bad if an ambulance was called,” he said.

“Our theory is that they are gradually killing him, using slow-acting poison which is applied through food,” he said.

“It might sound like paranoia, but after the Novichok poisoning, it seems completely plausible,” Shaveddinov said, referring to the nerve agent used in the last poisoning of the Russian opposition leader. “He lost 8 kg in two weeks, this hasn’t happened before and the doctors are not telling him why he is in so much pain.”

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny stands in a glass cage during a hearing in the Moscow City Court in Moscow, Russia, February 2, 2021. (Moscow City Court via AP)

“Since August, Navalny has spent most of his time in a punishment cell” with little to no reasoning, Shaveddinov said.

“You cannot sleep properly in [a punishment cell], there is no access to prison food shop and it is hard to write and read letters because of the poor lighting,” he said.

The Kremlin told The Guardian it was not following the reports on Navalny’s health.

Navalny has fought official Russian corruption for years.

In 2020, he suffered a near-fatal poisoning with a nerve agent in an attack widely blamed on the Kremlin.

After a five-month recuperation in Germany, he returned to Moscow in 2021, where he was taken into custody.

He was later sentenced to 2.5 years in prison and last year was convicted of other charges and given another nine-year term.

Amnesty International told The Guardian that “Russian prison authorities are using the cruel methods they have been refining for years to try and break the spirit of Aleksei Navalny by making his existence in the penal colony unbearable, humiliating and dehumanizing.”

Protesters clash with riot police during a rally in support of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny in downtown Moscow, Russia, January 23, 2021. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP)

German government spokesperson Christiane Hoffmann said Wednesday that Germany took note of reports about Navalny’s worsening health “with great concern.”

She added that Berlin wants “the inhuman treatment that he is apparently suffering in prison to be lifted,” and wants Russian authorities to ensure he gets access to medical treatment and is released.

A video documentary about Navalny won an Oscar last month.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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