Jailed anti-corruption activist and opposition politician Alexei Navalny is close to death as he goes into his 19th day of a hunger strike in prison.
Team Navalny released a statement saying his health is rapidly deteriorating and that he could “die any day,” unless he receives adequate medical care.
Navalny has been complaining of back ache and a heavy cough, and suggested he may been infected with tuberculosis by a cellmate. He launched his hunger strike when the prison authorities where he is serving a 2.8-year sentence for fraud refused to let him see his own doctor. The choice of doctor is given to prisoners under Russian law. However, the prison authorities have transferred Navalny to the hospital wing last week and he has been taken to the hospital in near-by city of Vladimir for more extensive tests.
President Joe Biden's national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Sunday that the US government had told Russia "there will be consequences" if Navalny dies in prison.
"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 told CNN.
"In terms of the specific measures that we would undertake, we are looking at a variety of different costs that we would impose and I am not going to telegraph that publicly at this point, but we have communicated that there will be consequences if Mr. Navalny dies," he added.
Reuters reported earlier that Navalny is facing an increasing risk of kidney failure and his vision is deteriorating after more than two weeks on hunger strike. Navalny has also only recently recovered from a near-death experience after he was poisoned with Novichok, allegedly by the Russian authorities and spent five months recuperating in Berlin.
Navalny’s doctor Anastasia Vasilyeva has written to the prison authorities to ask permission to see him, along with four other doctors.
In the letter, which Dr Vasilyeva posted on Twitter, the experts said Alexei Navalny's potassium had reached "critical levels".
"This means both impaired renal function and that serious heart rhythm problems can happen any minute," the letter said as cited by Reuters.
Having blood potassium levels higher than 6.0 mmol (millimoles) per litre usually requires immediate treatment. Navalny's blood test results, which were obtained by his lawyers, showed his were at 7.1, the letter said.
Kremlin moves to shut down
Russian prosecutors filed a lawsuit with the Moscow City Court last week on declaring Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), Citizens’ Rights Protection Foundation, and campaign offices as “extremist” organisations that should be censured.
Navalny’s organisations are being accused of plotting to overthrow power in Russia by staging “colour revolutions” and should be closed down and banned, according to a press release from the Moscow Prosecutor’s Office.
“Under the guise of liberal slogans, these organisations are engaged in creating conditions for destabilising the social and the socio-political situation. The actual goals of their activities are to create the conditions for altering the foundations of the constitutional order, including by way of a ‘colour revolution’ scenario.”
The prosecutors also claim that the decision to have the activities of Navalny’s foundations and campaign offices officially recognised as “undesirable” is based on the belief that they have been operating on behalf of “foreign and international organisations on Russian soil.”
Both the Anti-Corruption Foundation and the Citizens’ Rights Protection Foundation (the new legal entity behind the FBK) are considered “foreign agent” organisations in Russia.
Demonstrations and leaked names
The Team Navalny organisers are pushing back and have launched a campaign to gather 500,000 signatures of support at the free.navalny.com website, after which they say they will announce a date for the country-wide demonstration. The website had gathered 461,668 as of the evening of April 18.
However, the organisers found themselves with egg on their faces last week after the entire database of names was leaked and posted online, outing the would-be protesters in a country where the authorities have been actively taking reprisals against political protesters.
Team Navalny is looking into how a database of email addresses registered for their “Freedom for Navalny!” protest campaign leaked online.
Journalists from Open Media first reported the leak on April 15, after receiving copies of the database in an email attachment. The leak took place on the same day that Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation released a new investigation into Vladimir Putin’s official residence in Valdai.
Team Navalny has apologised for the incident, and assured that the database itself doesn’t contain any personal information other than email addresses. Navalny’s chief of staff told Meduza that the leak hasn’t affected his team’s preparations for the planned protest action.
In a comment to Meduza, Navalny’s chief of staff Leonid Volkov said that the leak has in no way affected his team’s plans to go forward with the “Freedom for Navalny!” protest.
“This question sounds a lot like: ‘Are you planning to terminate your pregnancy because dill prices went up in Argentina?’ Preparations for the rally are underway, an investigation into the incident involving the publication of the Mailgun logs is underway, there is no connection between these two events,” he said.