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Navalny Ally Says Jailed Kremlin Critic's Health Condition 'Significantly' Better

Ivan Zhdanov speaks to the media as police raid the FBK's offices in Moscow in July 2020.
Ivan Zhdanov speaks to the media as police raid the FBK's offices in Moscow in July 2020.

The director of jailed Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), which was labeled as "extremist" and banned in Russia this week, says the Kremlin critic is in "significantly better" condition as he recovers from a hunger strike that raised fears he may die.

Speaking to the Ekho Moskvy radio station on June 11, Ivan Zhdanov said Navalny was monitoring the situation around the FBK and other news related to him and his associates via his lawyers.

Navalny's lawyers and close allies were concerned about his health as it deteriorated during a 24-day hunger strike he held in March-April to protest a lack of medical treatment for severe back pain and numbness in his legs.

"Aleksei Navalny is in significantly better condition. Every time when he gets news [about FBK] he says he is shocked by the news he receives there.... He tries to follow the agenda, to be informed on what is going on.... In general, everything is okay," Zhdanov said, referring to a June 9 decision by the Moscow City Court to declare organizations linked to Navalny as "extremist."

The Kremlin's most vocal critic was arrested on January 17 upon his return to Russia from Germany, where he received life-saving treatment for a poisoning attack in Siberia in August 2020.

Navalny has insisted that the attack, with a Soviet-style chemical nerve agent, was ordered directly by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Kremlin have denied any role in the poisoning.

In February, a Moscow court ruled that while in Germany, Navalny had violated the terms of parole from an old embezzlement case that was widely considered to be politically motivated.

His 3 1/2-year suspended sentence from the case was converted to a jail term, though the court said he will serve just over 2 1/2 years in prison given time already served in detention.

The June 9 court ruling marks a watershed moment for Russia's opposition.

Protests for Navalny's release from jail in January precipitated a concerted state crackdown against his supporters. Law enforcement raided the homes of protesters, opposition-minded journalists, and even defense lawyers involved in the multiple criminal and civic cases against Navalny and his employees.

The extremist designation comes against the backdrop of an intensifying campaign by the authorities to dismantle opposition networks ahead of elections to the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, in September.

Legislation signed by Putin this month banned people tied to "extremist" organizations from running for elected posts, and the ruling against Navalny's group was widely seen as the inevitable final step in a legal process that would allow authorities to formally exclude any political force deemed to pose a challenge.

With reporting by Ekho Moskvy
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