Lawyers for jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny say their client is in great pain and fears for his life, contradicting a statement from Russian prison authorities that said the Kremlin critic was in "satisfactory" condition.
Speaking to the TV Dozhd after visiting Navalny in prison on March 25, lawyer Olga Mikhailova said appeals by his legal team for the 44-year-old to be given the necessary treatment for his ailments have been ignored for four weeks.
Mikhailova said Navalny was in an "extremely unfavorable" condition, suffering from severe back pain and issues with his right leg that has made it "practically nonfunctional."
Navalny's condition and his whereabouts became an issue on March 24 after his allies said they were concerned over his deteriorating health and his failure to attend a scheduled visit with his lawyers in prison.
The Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) told the Interfax news agency on March 25 that a routine medical checkup of inmates at the Correctional Colony No. 2 where Navalny is being held was conducted the previous day.
"According to the results of the examination, [Navalny's] health state was determined as stable, satisfactory," the FSIN's press service said to the agency.
The statement, however, did little to ease concerns among Navalny's wife and allies.
In an Instagram post, Yulia Navalnaya called for her husband to be immediately released so that he could be treated by doctors "he trusts."
She described what was happening to her husband as "personal revenge" for his opposition activities and added, "This should stop immediately."
"Now we are really worried," Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation wrote on Twitter. "Even the Federal Penitentiary Service can't call Navalny's condition good. This isn't a surprise since they put in prison a man who was recently poisoned with a nerve agent."
Another of Navalny's lawyers, Vadim Kobzev, said that after "finally" getting to see Navalny, it quickly became clear that he was not only not being treated properly, "but a deliberate strategy is under way to undermine his health."
"In recent days, Navalny has been given 2 tablets of Ibuprofen a day, which, of course, is a clear mockery of the situation. All of this is greatly complicated by the fact that he is actually being tortured with sleep deprivation: 8 times a night he is woken up for 'preventive accounting,' although the video camera is already hanging right above his bed," Kobzev said on Twitter.
"Navalny himself forbade us to tell this story publicly, but after we were not allowed to see him yesterday against the background of a sharp deterioration in his health, we decided to make everything public," he added.
A statement on Navalny's website demanded proper care be "immediately ensured."
"We remind you that Aleksei Navalny is in the colony IK-2 in Pokrov absolutely illegally, on the basis of an invalid verdict, on the personal order of Vladimir Putin, and Putin is directly responsible for his state of health," it added.
Navalny was detained at a Moscow airport in January immediately upon returning from Berlin, where he was recovering from what several Western laboratories determined was a poisoning attempt using a Novichok-type nerve agent that saw him fall seriously ill on a flight in Siberia in August 2020.
Navalny has said the assassination attempt was ordered by President Vladimir Putin -- an allegation rejected by the Kremlin.
A Moscow court in February ruled that while in Germany, Navalny had violated the terms of parole from an older embezzlement case that is widely considered to be politically motivated.
His suspended 3 1/2-year sentence was converted into jail time, though the court reduced that amount to 2 1/2 years for time already served in detention.
On March 25, more than 150 journalists, film directors, lawyers, rights defenders, scholars, and public figures published an open letter on the news website MBKh Media demanding lawyers get immediate access to Navalny and that prison officials remove his status of "inmate inclined to escape," which entails the strict control of inmates.
The authors of the letter reminded FSIN Director Aleksandr Kalashnikov, Prosecutor-General Igor Krasnov, and Ombudswoman Tatyana Moskalkova that Navalny was in a coma for 18 days after being poisoned last year and demanded an end to Navalny's "heavy psychological and physical torture."
"By Navalny's return to Russia, the rehabilitation of his health has not been completed. It is obvious that because he is in custody, he has not received any rehabilitation or serious pharmacological rehabilitation. At this point, due to the information we have received, we have serious reasons to be concerned for his health and his life," the letter said.
Navalny's incarceration set off a wave of national protests and a crackdown against his supporters.
The European Union, the United States, and Canada imposed a series of sanctions against Russia over the Navalny case.