Putin’s critic Navalny vows to continue hunger strike as TB sweeps through penal colony

Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has vowed to continue a hunger strike despite suffering from a heavy cough and fever as he claimed inmates in his Russian prison ward were being treated in hospital for tuberculosis.

Vladimir Putin‘s biggest opponent has vowed to continue a hunger strike he launched last week demanding adequate medical treatment at the harsh corrective penal colony more than 60 miles east of Moscow.

Navalny, 44, claimed prison authorities had refused to give him proper care for acute back and leg pain as his allies said they would stage a rolling protest outside his prison unless he was examined by a doctor of his choice.

His team said he had already lost 18lb before going on hunger strike – down from the 205lb he weighed when he arrived at his penal colony – due to sleep deprivation. 

Pro-Kremlin media and some members of a prison monitoring group have accused him of faking his medical problems to keep himself in the public eye – allegations which are denied by Navalny and his allies.

It comes as the Russian government announced on Monday that Vladimir Putin has signed a law that could keep him in office in the Kremlin until 2036.  

Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny vowed to continue a hunger strike despite suffering from a heavy cough and fever as he claimed inmates were being treated in hospital for tuberculosis

Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny vowed to continue a hunger strike despite suffering from a heavy cough and fever as he claimed inmates were being treated in hospital for tuberculosis

Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny vowed to continue a hunger strike despite suffering from a heavy cough and fever as he claimed inmates were being treated in hospital for tuberculosis

Navalny walks to take his seat in a Pobeda airlines plane heading to Moscow before take-off from Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER) in Schoenefeld, southeast of Berlin, on January 17, 2021

Navalny walks to take his seat in a Pobeda airlines plane heading to Moscow before take-off from Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER) in Schoenefeld, southeast of Berlin, on January 17, 2021

Navalny walks to take his seat in a Pobeda airlines plane heading to Moscow before take-off from Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER) in Schoenefeld, southeast of Berlin, on January 17, 2021

Two reports in pro-Kremlin outlets described Navalny as looking ‘quite normal’ and saying he is incarcerated in a colony that is ‘practically exemplary’.

In his post Monday, Navalny said the reports had ‘not a single word of truth’. As evidence, he wrote that a third person out of 15 in his unit had been hospitalised with tuberculosis since his arrival at the penal colony in February. 

‘If I have tuberculosis, then maybe it’ll chase out the pain in my back and numbness in my legs. That’d be nice,’ he wrote on Instagram. ‘I am surprised that there is no Ebola virus here,’ he quipped, adding: ‘such is our ‘ideal, exemplary colony’.’ 

He added: ‘I quote the official statistics of today’s temperature measurement: ‘Navalny A.A., bad cough, temperature 38.1’. A temperature above 38C (100.58F) most often indicates a fever caused by an infection or illness.

Navalny’s lawyers have visited him regularly in custody and have helped him continue to post messages on social media.

Authorities at the IK-2 corrective penal colony 60 miles east of Moscow, where the opposition politician is being held, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about a TB outbreak or Navalny’s temperature and cough.

They have said previously that his condition was satisfactory and that he has been provided with all necessary medical care.

Anastasiya Vasilyeva, a doctor and ally of Navalny, confirmed plans for a protest would take place from Tuesday.

Navalny was arrested on his return to Russia in January after spending months in Germany recovering from a poisoning last summer that he blames on the Kremlin. 

Earlier this month, Navalny, who is considered a flight risk by authorities, filed two complaints against prison officials, saying he is woken eight times a night by guards announcing to a recording camera that he is still in his cell. 

It comes as the Russian government announced on Monday that President Vladimir Putin has signed a law that could keep him in office in the Kremlin until 2036

It comes as the Russian government announced on Monday that President Vladimir Putin has signed a law that could keep him in office in the Kremlin until 2036

It comes as the Russian government announced on Monday that President Vladimir Putin has signed a law that could keep him in office in the Kremlin until 2036

He was arrested as he returned to Russia from Germany in January, where he had been recovering from what doctors said was poisoning with a nerve agent. The West has demanded that Russia release Navalny. 

Russia’s relations with the Western are at their lowest since the end of the Cold War, marred by allegations of election interference and sweeping cyberattacks.

Last week, video footage which appeared on Twitter appeared to show Russia sending trains filled with tanks and military vehicles into Crimea and toward Donbass, Ukraine’s easternmost region that borders Russia.

It comes as the Russian government announced on Monday that Vladimir Putin has signed a law that could keep him in office in the Kremlin until 2036.

The legislation allows the Russian President to run for two more six-year terms once his current stint ends in 2024, following changes to the constitution last year.

Those changes were backed in a public vote last summer and could allow Putin, 68, to potentially remain in power until the age of 83. He is currently serving his second consecutive term as president and his fourth in total.

The reform, which critics cast as a constitutional coup, was packaged with an array of other amendments that were expected to garner popular support, such as one bolstering pension protections.

The law signed by Putin limits any future president to two terms in office, but resets his term count. It prevents anyone who has held foreign citizenship from running for the Kremlin.

The legislation was passed in the lower and upper houses of parliament last month.   

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