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500 Russian Physicians Demand Prison Medical Assistance For Navalny

Russian opposition activist Aleksei Navalny at a Moscow court hearing in February.
Russian opposition activist Aleksei Navalny at a Moscow court hearing in February.

MOSCOW -- Hundreds of Russian physicians have demanded authorities provide immediate medical assistance to jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny amid growing concerns over the state of his health.

Some 500 doctors and medical experts signed the online petition that was launched on March 28, one of the initiators of the petition, a journalist from the Insider website, Oleg Pshenichny, told RFE/RL.

The petition says that at a bare minimum, an independent physician whom Navalny trusts should have the opportunity to examine him. Better yet, it suggests Navalny be examined by experts from the Charite clinic in Berlin, Germany, where he was treated after he was poisoned in Siberia last year as the current deterioration of his condition may be related to the attack.

"We demand the Federal Penitentiary Service, all related entities, and the political leadership of our country immediately intervene in the situation and, without delay, secure medical assistance to create all necessary conditions for the normalization of Aleksei Navalny's state of health," the petition states.

Back Pain

Navalny's health condition became an issue last week after his allies said they were concerned over his deteriorating health and called on prison authorities to clarify his condition.

Navalny said he was suffering from severe back pain and that “nothing” was being done by prison authorities to solve the problem other than being given some ibuprofen.

Members of the Public Monitoring Commission in the Vladimir Region visited the prison over the weekend and met with Navalny “in order to learn about problems with his health and the provision of medical treatment,” according to the commission.

The commission's deputy chairman Vladimir Grigoryan told Dozhd television channel on March 29 that Navalny was faking his illness.

Grigoryan was unable to explain why he thinks that Navalny is simulating the illness and stopped the interview when he was asked to explain his comments, abruptly telling the Dozhd correspondent: "Goodbye, my dear."

Navalny’s lawyers, meanwhile, have said that their client has not yet received official results of his MRI examination he had in a hospital outside the prison last week.

Vadim Kobzev, one of Navalny's lawyer, quoted his client as saying that the Public Monitoring Commission in the Vladimir region is "a bunch of swindlers and liars, who serve the administrations of concentration camps and make the situation for inmates even worse."

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 Russian President Vladimir Putin -- an allegation rejected by the Kremlin.

A Moscow court in February ruled that while being treated in Germany, Navalny had violated the terms of parole from an old 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.

The petition signed by Russian physicians reminded Russian authorities that the European Court of Human Rights in 2017 ruled that the case which is the basis for Navalny's current incarceration was "unfair," and therefore Putin's most-vocal critic should not even be in jail.

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.

With reporting by Dozhd

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