Top Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny says he’s a ‘skeleton walking, swaying, in its cell’

Navalny
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s health has been rapidly deteriorating in prison, his allies say.

  • Alexei Navalny says he looks like a “skeleton” amid reports his health is rapidly deteriorating.
  • The imprisoned Kremlin critic has been on a weekslong hunger strike.
  • Navalny, who was poisoned in August, is demanding access to his own doctors.
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Imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny joked about the state of his health in an Instagram post on Tuesday, three weeks into a hunger strike over a demand for proper medical care.

“If you saw me now, you would laugh,” Navalny said, describing himself as “a skeleton walking, swaying, in its cell.” The Russian opposition leader has been posting on Instagram from prison via his lawyers.

Navalny’s allies have warned he’s on the verge of death and leaders across the world have condemned the Russian government over his imprisonment. Thousands of Russians have demonstrated against Navalny’s detention and demanded his release.

The anti-corruption campaigner, who is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critic, was poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok in August. Navalny has blamed the incident on Putin, whose opponents often wind up dead in violent or suspicious ways.

After receiving treatment in Germany for several months following his poisoning, Navalny returned to Moscow in January and was promptly arrested. He was charged with violating the terms of a suspended sentence for fraud in 2014, and sentenced to two and a half years in prison. Navalny has dismissed all charges against him as politically motivated.

While in prison, Navalny complained of acute back pain and numbness in one leg and demanded access to his own doctors. Earlier this week, Navalny was transferred to an infirmary at a separate penal colony as his condition worsened. Authorities in Russia continue to prevent Navalny’s doctors from seeing him in prison.

The White House has warned that there will be consequences for Moscow if Navalny dies. But Navalny’s chief of staff is urging the US to do more.

“I prefer that Putin be held accountable for what’s happening now, before Navalny dies. I don’t want my friend and my colleague to die,” Leonid Volkov told CNN.

Meanwhile, UN experts on the Human Rights Council on Wednesday warned that Navalny is in “serious danger” and called for his “urgent medical evacuation from Russia.”

“We are deeply troubled that Mr. Navalny is being kept in conditions that could amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in a facility that reportedly does not meet international standards,”the experts said in a statement.

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US ambassador to Russia returning to Washington after the Kremlin urged him to leave amid heightened tensions

John Sullivan
US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan is returning from Moscow as tensions reach historic heights.

  • The US ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan, is returning to Washington amid mounting tensions.
  • Last week, Russia urged Washington to recall the ambassador for consultations.
  • Russia and the US have been engaged in an escalating diplomatic tit-for-tat.
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US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan will return to Washington this week to discuss with administration officials rising tensions with Russia, the US Embassy in Moscow said on Tuesday.

“I believe it is important for me to speak directly with my new colleagues in the Biden administration in Washington about the current state of bilateral relations between the United States and Russia,” Sullivan said in a statement.

“Also, I have not seen my family in well over a year, and that is another important reason for me to return home for a visit,” Sullivan added. “I will return to Moscow in the coming weeks before any meeting between Presidents Biden and Putin.”

The announcement came after Russia urged Washington to bring Sullivan home as it announced the expulsion of 10 US diplomats in retaliation to new sanctions from the Biden administration that came in concert with the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats.

Russia had previously recalled its ambassador to the US amid anger over Biden referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “killer.”

Tensions between Moscow and Washington have reached historic heights in recent weeks, on top of several years of deteriorating relations. Russia has amassed roughly 80,000 troops along Ukraine’s borders, prompting fears of an invasion. In a recent phone call, Biden urged Putin to reduce tensions with Ukraine while proposing a summit in a third country. Russia has said it’s reviewing the proposal for a summit.

Meanwhile, the imprisonment of Alexei Navalny, Putin’s top critic, has also contributed to the contentious dynamic. Navalny’s allies say his health is rapidly deteriorating and that he could be on the verge of death. The White House has warned the Kremlin there will be consequences if Navalny dies. Navalny was poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok in August. The apparent assassination attempt has been widely blamed on Putin, whose critics often wind up dead in violent or mysterious ways.

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Bernie Sanders says Putin is murdering Navalny ‘in front of the world’ for exposing the Russian president’s ‘vast corruption’

alexei navalny
Alexei Navalny appears in a video published by his team on January 18, 2021.

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders said Putin is murdering Alexei Navalny in “front of the world.”
  • Navalny’s team has warned his health is rapidly deteriorating to the point where he could die.
  • The Putin critic was transferred to another penal colony infirmary on Monday.
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Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont did not mince words as he backed growing calls for Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny to receive proper medical treatment.

“Make no mistake about what is happening here: activist Aleksei Navalny is being murdered in front of the world by Vladimir Putin for the crime of exposing Putin’s vast corruption. Navalny’s doctors must be allowed to see him immediately,” Sanders said in a tweet on Sunday.

The Russian embassy in Washington, DC, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.

The Vermont senator’s criticism of the Russian president came after Navalny’s doctor warned that he could “die at any moment.” The Biden administration has warned Russia there will be consequences if Navalny dies.

Navalny has been on hunger strike for weeks, demanding he receive proper medical care over complaints of back pain and numbness in one of his legs.

The anti-corruption campaigner on Monday was transferred to a prison hospital at a separate penal colony from where he was being held. Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service said Navalny’s condition was “satisfactory,” per ABC News.

Meanwhile, Navalny’s allies have warned that his health is rapidly deteriorating, and have pushed against referring to the facility he was transferred to as a “hospital.”

“Please stop writing that Navalny has been transferred to a hospital. It’s not a hospital, it’s just a different penal colony that has the same torturous conditions, same everything, apart from the fact that there are few formally qualified doctors on-site. This changes nothing,” Maria Pevchikh, an investigator at Navalny’s Anti-corruption Foundation, said in a tweet.

Navalny faced an apparent assassination attempt in August when he was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok, which can cause lingering health effects. Navalny blamed Putin for the incident. Leaders across the world condemned Putin over the poisoning. The Russian president’s critics have often been killed in violent or mysterious ways.

In September, Navalny was taken to Germany for medical treatment. Upon returning to Moscow in January, he was arrested and accused of violating parole – including while he was in Germany – over a 2014 suspended sentence for fraud. Navalny, who’s mantained all charges against him are politically motivated, was sentenced to two and a half years in prison.

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Russia claims Alexei Navalny’s health is fine, while his doctors say he could die any minute

Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny takes part in a rally in Moscow
Alexei Navalny.

  • Russia defended the health of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
  • His doctors say he’s at risk of severe heart problems and could “die any minute.”
  • But the Kremlin dismissed the concerns, and the prison service said his health was “satisfactory.”
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Russia has said that jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s health is fine, despite his doctors saying that he could die at any moment.

Four doctors, including his personal physician, have said that he is at risk of severe heart problems amid his weekslong hunger strike, with one saying that he could “die any minute.”

The Russian news agency TASS reported on Monday that the regional branch of Russia’s prison service called Navalny’s health “satisfactory,” claiming that he is given vitamins and seen by a doctor every day.

Agence France-Presse reported on Monday that the Kremlin had dismissed concerns about Navalny’s health, and said that the government was not monitoring his health.

Navalny has been on a hunger strike since March 31. He started it in protest over not getting adequate medical treatment in jail.

Navalny is serving a 2-1/2-year sentence after being found guilty of missing parole meetings. His lawyer said he missed the them because he was in Germany, recovering from being poisoned with the Novichok nerve agent. Navalny blames the poisoning on the Kremlin.

International pressure on Russia over Navalny’s treatment has increased.

US President Joe Biden on Saturday criticized Navalny’s treatment, calling it “totally, totally unfair” and “totally inappropriate.” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan also said Russia would face “consequences” if Navalny died.

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National security advisor says Russia will face ‘consequences’ if Putin critic Alexei Navalny dies

alexei navalny
Alexei Navalny appears in a video published by his team on January 18, 2021.

  • The US has threatened Russia with sanctions and other consequences if Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny dies in state prison.
  • Last month, Navalny said he was going on a hunger strike in jail until he could see a doctor.
  • Navalny is recovering after being poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent in Russia.
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Russia will face heavy consequences like sanctions if Alexei Navalny, a top critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, dies in jail, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Sunday.

“We have communicated to the Russian government that what happens to Mr. Navalny in their custody is their responsibility and they will be held accountable by the international community,” Sullivan said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“In terms of the specific measures that we would take, we are looking at a variety of different costs that we would impose and I’m not going to telegraph that publicly at this point,” he added. “But we have communicated that there will be consequences if Mr. Navalny dies.”

Navalny is serving a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence for missing parole hearings while recovering in Germany after being poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent in Russia.

Last month, Navalny said he was going on a hunger strike in jail until he’d be allowed to see a doctor.

“The right to invite a specialist for examination and consultation exists for every convict. Even for me, despite the fact that I’m not guilty,” he said on Twitter. “That’s why I am urging that a doctor be allowed to see me, and until that happens, I am going on a hunger strike.”

In a more detailed Instagram post, Navalny said he has been experiencing pain in his back, and has lost sensitivity in parts of his right leg and most of his left leg.

Doctors have been sounding the alarm, urgently requesting to see him. They warned prison officials that if Navalny does not receive proper medical care and treatment right away, he could die any minute.

At least four doctors have so far requested to see him. Navalny’s personal physician, Anastasia Vasilyeva, wrote to prison officials that his potassium levels were dangerously high, Insider’s Sinéad Baker reported, which might lead to devastating heart issues.

“Our patient can die any minute,” cardiologist Yaroslav Ashikhmin said, adding that “fatal arrhythmia can develop any minute.”

Russian officials have said prison authorities offered Navalny medical care but he declined it because he wanted to see a doctor of his choice.

President Joe Biden this weekend denounced the conditions Navalny is subjected to in the Russian prison, saying it’s “totally inappropriate.”

“It’s totally, totally unfair,” Biden said.

Navalny allies are planning mass street protests this Wednesday, Reuters reported. The protests, which Russian authorities have cracked down on in the past, will come the same day Putin is slated to give an annual state-of-the-nation speech, Reuters said.

Have a news tip? Reach this reporter at ydzhanova@insider.com

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Top US general in Europe says there’s a low-to-medium risk Russia invades Ukraine in the next few weeks

Russia
Units of Russian mountain air assault division hold exercise in Crimea in March 2021.

  • The top US general in Europe said there’s a “low to medium” risk Russia invades Ukraine soon.
  • Russia has amassed 80,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders.
  • Tensions between Russia and the West have reached historic heights.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Air Force General Tod Wolters, the top US general in Europe, on Thursday said there’s a “low to medium” risk that Russia invades Ukraine in the next few weeks, per Defense News.

Wolters, the head of US European Command and NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe, during a House Armed Services Committee said that NATO was ready to respond to Russian aggression if necessary.

“We deter, and, if deterrence fails, we’re prepared to respond to aggression with the full weight of the transatlantic alliance,” Wolters said, also stating that the likelihood of a Russian invasion will “start to wane” based on “the trend that I see right now.” The general did not provide further details or intelligence behind this assessment.

Roughly 80,000 Russian troops have amassed in Crimea and along the eastern border of Ukraine, which has already been fighting a war against Kremlin-backed separatists in the Donbass region for over half a decade, raising alarm bells across Europe and in Washington.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday called on Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine’s border.

“NATO stands with Ukraine,” he said. “Russia must end this military buildup in and around Ukraine, stop its provocations and de-escalate immediately.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday warned Russia of “consequences” if it “acts recklessly or aggressively.”

Blinken, who traveled to Brussels this week for talks with Ukraine’s foreign minister and NATO leaders, on Tuesday said that the US “stands firmly behind the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

“And that’s particularly important at a time when we’re seeing, unfortunately, Russia take very provocative action when it comes to Ukraine,” Blinken added.

President Joe Biden earlier this week urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to deescalate tensions, and proposed holding a summit in a third country in the coming months.

“The President voiced our concerns over the sudden Russian military build-up in occupied Crimea and on Ukraine’s borders, and called on Russia to de-escalate tensions,” the White House said in a statement.

US-Russia relations have hit a historically low point in recent years, particularly since Putin’s unilateral annexation of Crimea in 2014, and the contentious dynamic has persisted with Biden at the helm.

Biden in March referred to Putin as a “killer,” prompting outcry from the Kremlin.

Russia’s interference in US elections has also driven a wedge between Washington and Moscow.

The Biden administration on Thursday issued new sanctions against over 30 Russian entities over Moscow’s election interference as well as Russia’s role in the SolarWinds cyberattack. Additionally, the US expelled 10 Russian diplomats.

Russia has denied any role in the hack and rejected allegations of election interference.

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Putin critic Navalny says Russian prison guards are trying to break his hunger strike by frying chicken in front of him

alexei navalny prison
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny attending a hearing in Moscow, Russia February 20, 2021

  • Alexei Navalny in an Instagram post said prison guards are tempting him by cooking food.
  • He is staging a hunger strike to protest what he says is a lack of medical treatment in prison.
  • His lawyer says his health is deteriorating and he is losing sensation in his hands and legs.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Alexei Navalny, the imprisoned critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, says that prison guards are trying to tempt him out of a hunger strike by frying chicken in front of him.

Navalny described the situation in an Instagram post from the IK-2 prison in Pokrov, near Moscow, where he is serving a three-and-a-half year sentence.

He has been on hunger strike since last week in protest at what he said is a lack of medical care. In the post, he said that guards also slip candy into his pockets as well as using the smell of cooking chicken.

A post shared by Алексей Навальный (@navalny)

Navalny, the most high-profile challenger to the Russian president, was sentenced in February for having violated earlier parole terms. Navalny argued that he had no ability to meet the parol conditions because he had been poisoned with a nerve agent.

The poisoning, which took place in August and left him in a coma at the time of the hearings, has been linked to Russia’s FSB security agency, although Russian authorities have denied being involved.

Navalny also says the original charges were politically motivated and has accused Putin of trying to kill him.

Last week, he went on hunger strike to protest a lack of medical treatment in prison. According to his lawyers he has been diagnosed with two spinal hernias and his health has been deteriorating badly, the BBC reported.

He has pain walking and is losing sensation in his hands and legs, his lawyer Vadim Kobzev said on Twitter Wednesday. His weight is also dropping by 1lb a day, Kobzev wrote.

In the Instagram post, Navalny wrote: “I knew, of course, that the authorities would first of all want to discredit the hunger strike and make fun of it. Only the primitiveness of the approach is surprising.”

He said he makes sure to only go in the kitchen for water while cameras are recording, saying that state TV has accused his strike of being a sham.

He also described the guards teasing him as they cook chicken in front of him, encouraging him to eat with them and saying things like: “Come on, Lex …. mmmm, what a smell. Give up, you will not achieve anything.”

He said that he first thought they were following orders, then realized: “This is just what they piously believe in.”

Navalny also said that he was being denied a proper medical diagnosis, and was not allowed to know the results of an MRI scan.

Amnesty International’s secretary general Agnes Callamard said that the Russian authorities “may be placing him into a situation of a slow death and seeking to hide what is happening to him,” Reuters reported Wednesday. His conditions amount to torture, she said.

Navalny’s lawyers say there are no doctors, just a single paramedic, at his prison, the BBC reported.

Russia’s prison service denied this, the BBC reported, arguing that Navalny had “all the necessary medical assistance in accordance with his medical indications.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that President Joe Biden’s administration was “disturbed” by reports of Navalny’s deteriorating health, and reiterated its stance that the charges against him were “trumped-up.”

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Alexei Navalny’s doctor was detained outside his prison after asking to check on him, as reports say the Russian critic is seriously ill

Navalny doctor
Russian police officers detain Anastasiya Vasilyeva, a doctor and ally of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, near the IK-2 corrective penal colony in Pokrov, Russia, on April 6, 2021.

  • Russian police detained the doctor of opposition leader Alexei Navalny at a protest over his health.
  • She was turned away from the prison after saying she wanted to check on him, Reuters reported.
  • Navalny was transferred to a medical unit because of possible respiratory problems and fever, Reuters reported.
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Russian police detained Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny’s doctor after she asked to check on his health.

Reuters reported that Anastasiya Vasilyeva, who is an ally of Navalny and leads a doctors’ union, was detained after she was turned away from the prison, where she said she had an appointment with a senior prison official and that she wanted to see Navalny to check on his health.

Al Jazeera described Vasilyeva as Navalny’s personal doctor.

At least six other people were detained, including two CNN correspondents, at the protest, Reuters reported.

It is not clear why they were detained.

Navalny was transferred to a penal-colony medical unit earlier this week because of possible respiratory problems and fever, Reuters reported on Monday. His lawyer has said he was “seriously ill.”

Navalny recently announced a hunger strike to process a lack of medical care in the facility.

He was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison in early February for violating a 2014 suspended sentence. He missed probation meetings because he was being treated for poison in Berlin, his lawyers said.

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Putin critic Navalny reportedly transferred to medical facility after falling ill in prison

alexei navalny
Alexei Navalny in a video published by his team on January 18.

  • Alexei Navalny has reportedly been transferred to a medical unit for respiratory problems.
  • The imprisoned Putin critic recently went on a hunger strike over claims of improper medical care.
  • Amnesty International said it was possible Russia was subjecting Navalny “to a slow death.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been transferred to a penal-colony medical unit because of possible respiratory problems and fever, Reuters reported on Monday, citing the Russian newspaper Izvestia.

Navalny received a COVID-19 test in the medical facility, according to the report, but the result remains unclear.

In his most recent Instagram post, Navalny said three people in his prison ward were in the hospital being treated for tuberculosis. Navalny added that he had a severe cough and high temperature.

“If I have tuberculosis, then maybe it’ll chase out the pain in my back and numbness in my legs. That’d be nice,” Navalny said.

The anti-corruption campaigner and top critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin recently announced he was going on a hunger strike over claims he was being denied proper medical care in prison. Navalny has complained of acute back and leg pain while in prison and said prison guards repeatedly wake him up at night as a form of sleep deprivation. The Russian opposition figure’s legal team has alleged a “deliberate strategy is underway to undermine his health.”

“There is a real prospect that Russia is subjecting him to a slow death,” Agnès Callamard, the secretary general of Amnesty International, told Voice of America. “He must be granted immediate access to a medical doctor he trusts and he must be freed.”

Navalny was poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok in August and subsequently taken to Germany for medical treatment. Upon his return to Moscow in January, the Kremlin critic was promptly arrested. His detention sparked mass protests in Russia as world leaders called for Navalny’s immediate release.

He was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison on charges of violating parole for a 2014 fraud conviction, including while he was in Germany for five months receiving medical treatment. The sentencing was broadly viewed as political retribution and condemned by leaders worldwide. Europe’s top human-rights court previously characterized the 2014 conviction as politically motivated.

Putin has been accused of ordering Navalny’s poisoning, an allegation the Russian president has vehemently denied.

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Putin said he got a coronavirus vaccine, but released no photos and won’t say which one he took

vladimir putin may 6
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin on May 6, 2020.

  • Putin received a vaccine behind closed doors on Tuesday, away from cameras, officials said.
  • It was one of the three Russian vaccines, per the Kremlin, but they did not say which.
  • Putin usually loves photo-ops, and is out of step with other world leaders who got vaccinated in public.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin received a vaccine on Tuesday, but has not disclosed which one.

“Putin was vaccinated against the coronavirus. [He] feels good. Tomorrow he has a full working day,” Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s top spokesman, told CNN.

The vaccination would not be made a public event because Putin “doesn’t like” the idea of being on camera for it, Peskov said.

He refused to say which vaccine Putin got, but said it was one of the three available in Russia: Sputnik V, EpiVacCorona, and CoviVac.

“We are deliberately not saying which shot the president will get, noting that all three Russian [-made] vaccines are absolutely reliable and effective,” Peskov said, according to Reuters.

When asked how anyone would know that Putin had really been vaccinated, the Peskov responded “You will have to take our word for it.”

Many noted that deciding to leave the cameras behind was out-of-character for Putin, who is famous for posed photo-ops:

It is also a change from other world leaders who chose to get their shots publicly to encourage trust in vaccination.

President Joe Biden was injected publicly during his transition to the presidency. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson took his jab in public last week.

Joe Biden vaccine
Joe Biden, at the time president-elect, received his first dose of the coronavirus vaccine on December 21, 2020.

Putin’s preference for private vaccination is shared by former President Donald Trump, who was vaccinated in January while still in office, but did not make that fact public. News outlets first reported it had happened on March 1.

Sputnik V has been approved in Russia for more then ten months, and Putin, 68, has been eligible for it since December, The New York Times reported.

Some have questioned why Putin had not received a vaccine until Tuesday, long after he told the media that one of his daughters had taken it.

Sputnik V was found to be 91.6% effective against symptomatic COVID-19 in an analysis published in February. EpiVacCorona and CoviVac were approved in Russia in October 2020 and February 2021, respectively, but neither have gone through the phase 3 trials, trials which confirm vaccine safety and efficacy.

5.9 million Russians have received a COVID-19 vaccine at home, according to Our World in Data, out of a population of over 145 million.

Peskov, the Kremlin spokesperson, said that the demand abroad for Sputnik V exceeded supply so promotion was not needed, the Times reported.

The shot is now approved in 56 countries, according to the Sputnik V spokespeople. But it is not approved in the EU, the UK or the US.

Russia plans to vaccinate 1 in 10 people in the world with Sputnik V this year, Insider’s Kate Duffy reported on March 12.

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