Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny starts hunger strike over lack of medical care

MOSCOW – Imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny went on hunger strike Wednesday to force the prison that is holding him outside Moscow to properly care for him in what he described as acute back and leg pain.

The fate of Navalny, one of President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critics, takes center stage after he said last week that being woken up every hour by a security guard was torture and that his appeals for acute back and leg pain treatment were ignored.

In a handwritten letter to the governor of his prison posted on social media Wednesday by his team, Navalny said his daily requests for a doctor of his choice to examine him and for appropriate medication for his problems had been ignored .

“I request that a doctor see me and until that happens I am on a hunger strike,” he said in the letter.

The IK-2 penal colony 60 miles east of Moscow did not immediately respond to a request for comment. After examining Navalny last week, the prison authorities declared his condition stable and satisfactory. The Kremlin has refused to comment on his health.

On Sunday, medical professionals published an open letter calling on the 44-year-old opposition politician to receive adequate care.

“We fear the worst. If we leave a patient in this condition … it can have serious consequences, including irreversible, total or partial loss of lower limb function,” the letter said.

Navalny was jailed last month for two and a half years on politically motivated charges. He was arrested when he returned to Russia from Germany in January, where he was recovering from nerve poisoning.

The West, including the European Court of Human Rights, has called for Russia to release Navalny. Moscow has described such appeals as unacceptable interference in its internal affairs.

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