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Navalny Has Two Herniated Disks, Numbness In His Hands, Attorney Says


Police officers wearing face masks to protect against the coronavirus guard an entrance to Correctional Colony No. 2 in Pokrov on April 6.
Police officers wearing face masks to protect against the coronavirus guard an entrance to Correctional Colony No. 2 in Pokrov on April 6.

An attorney for jailed Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny says the Kremlin critic has two herniated disks in his back and has started to lose feeling in his hands.

Olga Mikhailova told the Dozhd television channel that Navalny has refused the prison paramedic’s prescription of the anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac and a nicotinic acid -- remedies that she said have not been used in medicine for 30 years.

Navalny, 44, has complained of severe back pain and leg numbness for nearly three weeks, his allies have said. He had an MRI scan on March 24, and prison authorities told the Interfax news agency the next day that his condition was deemed “stable, satisfactory.”

Navalny, who fell critically ill last August after a poison attack that his doctors say he has yet to fully recover from, relayed the result of the MRI scan to his attorneys during their visit on April 7, and Mikhailova said they show he has two herniated disks and a bulging disk.

She added that Navalny’s high fever has subsided since he was moved to the prison sick ward on April 5 with symptoms of a respiratory illness. He still has a cough, she said.

An initial test for exposure to coronavirus came back negative, Mikhailova said, but the results from a second test have yet to be given to Navalny.

Mikhailova also said Navalny’s condition may have been exacerbated by the poor medical care provided to him in the prison colony, one of Russia's most notorious. She said she believed that prison authorities were afraid that a visiting specialist would show that “their awful treatment led to the deterioration in his health.”

Mikhailova and Vadim Kobzev, another member of Navalny's legal team, confirmed that Navalny remained in the medical unit of the colony.

"Aleksei walks by himself. Feels pain when walking. A very disturbing factor is that the disease is clearly progressing in terms of loss of sensitivity in the legs, palms, and hands," he wrote on Twitter.

Navalny declared a hunger strike last week, raising even more concerns about his overall health. He is losing about 1 kilogram a day, Kobzev said.

On April 6, Anastasia Vasilyeva, Navalny's personal doctor, who is the head of the Alliance of Doctors union, was rebuffed by prison officials in her efforts to see her patient in the correctional colony in the Vladimir region, some 100 kilometers from Moscow. She was later detained outside the prison, along with at least nine other supporters.

Vasilyeva and most of the Navalny supporters were released after several hours, but on April 8, a local court in the Vladimir region sentenced four of the detained supporters of Navalny to several days in jail. The former leader of Navalny's team in the Siberian city of Kemerovo, Ksenia Pakhomova, was sentenced to nine days in jail, while representatives of the Alliance of Doctors union -- Aleksandr Generalov, Artyom Boriskin, and Valeria Merkulova -- were handed eight-day jail terms each.

Navalny’s imprisonment set off a wave of national protests and, in turn, a violent police crackdown against his supporters.

The European Union, the United States, and Canada imposed a series of sanctions against Russia over the Navalny poisoning, his jailing, and the treatment of protesters by security forces.

"We are worried by reports that Mr Navalny’s health in the penal colony continues to deteriorate," Nabila Massrali, a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, said in a written statement on April 8.

"The EU calls on the Russian authorities to grant Mr Navalny immediate access to medical professionals he trusts. The EU will continue to call for Aleksei Navalny’s immediate and unconditional release as we consider his sentencing politically motivated and running counter to Russia’s international human rights obligations. The EU will continue to call on the Russian Federation to urgently investigate the assassination attempt through poisoning on Mr Navalny in full transparency and without further delay, and to fully cooperate with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to ensure an impartial international investigation," she added.

The White House said on April 7 it is "disturbed" by reports that Navalny's health is deteriorating, and urged Russian authorities to ensure his safety and health.

"So long as he is in prison, the Russian government is responsible for his health and well-being," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.

The White House also reiterated that it considers Navalny's imprisonment "politically motivated and a gross injustice," and urged Russian authorities to "take all necessary actions to ensure his safety."

Navalny’s health condition is potentially precarious because of his exposure to a nerve-agent last August in Siberia. He has accused President Vladimir Putin of ordering security agents to assassinate him, something the Kremlin denies.

He was imprisoned after returning to Russia in January from his recuperation in Germany.

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said Navalny would receive the necessary medical care but no preferential treatment.

A lawyer who has gained wide popularity for his investigations into official corruption and his slashing wit, Navalny was arrested at a Moscow airport in January on charges of violating his parole, sparking large-scale protests.

A Moscow court found him guilty of violating the terms of his parole from an older embezzlement case that the European Court of Human Rights in 2017 ruled was "unfair." His 3 1/2 year suspended sentenced was converted to prison time.

With reporting by TASS, Reuters, AFP, The Washington Post, The Guardian, RFE/RL's Russian Service, and Idel.Realities.
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