Orlando Sentinel

Navalny’s team calls for protests amid reports of failing health

- By Jim Heintz

MOSCOW — Associates of imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny called Sunday for massive protests in the heart of Moscow and St. Petersburg on Wednesday, saying Navalny’s health is deteriorat­ing severely during a hunger strike.

Leonid Volkov, a top strategist for Navalny, said the demonstrat­ions were called with three days’ notice because “his life hangs in the balance ...We don’t know how long he can hold on. But it is clear we do not have time.”

The 44-year-old Navalny, President Vladimir Putin’s most visible and persistent critic, started a hunger strike more than three weeks ago to protest prison authoritie­s’ refusal to allow him to be seen by a private doctor. He says he is suffering from severe back pain and loss of feeling in his legs, and that the medical care in prison inadequate; the Russian penitentia­ry service says he is getting appropriat­e care.

Several doctors went Sunday to the prison colony east of Moscow where Navalny is serving time but were not allowed to see him.

“It’s cruel and monstrous to deny access to a dying patient,” Anastasia Vasilyeva, the head of a Navalny-backed doctors’ union, said outside the prison.

A doctor said Saturday that test results he received from Navalny’s family showed sharply elevated levels of potassium, which could lead to cardiac arrest, and signs of kidney failure.

“Our patient could die at any moment,” the doctor, Yaroslav Ashikhmin, said.

There was no immediate comment from police or government officials about the call for protests, but the response is likely to be harsh. Police arrested more than 10,000 people during nationwide protests in January demanding Navalny’s freedom.

Navalny was arrested Jan. 17 when he returned to Russia from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from poisoning with a Soviet-era nerve agent he blames on the Kremlin. Russian officials have denied involvemen­t.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan said on CNN that the United States is concerned about Navalny,

“We have communicat­ed that there will be consequenc­es if Mr. Navalny dies,” Sullivan said.

 ?? ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICH­ENKO/AP ?? Alexei Navalny has been on a hunger strike for more than three weeks.
ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICH­ENKO/AP Alexei Navalny has been on a hunger strike for more than three weeks.

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