Navalny: From poisoning to prison 'torture'

Moscow, Russia: Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said Thursday his health was declining and accused prison authorities of "torture" through sleep deprivation, with allies saying they feared for his life.

President Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic is serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence on old embezzlement charges in a penal colony outside Moscow. Rights campaigners have described his prison as especially harsh, and Navalny himself compared it to a "concentration camp."

The 44-year-old was arrested on his return to Russia in January from Germany, where he spent months recovering from a near-fatal nerve agent poisoning in August that he blames on the Kremlin.

Navalny's allies raised concerns over his health after he complained of severe back and leg pain in recent days, and on Thursday he made a formal complaint through his lawyers of mistreatment.

"I believe that my deteriorating health is the direct consequence of actions and inaction of FSIN employees," Navalny said, referring to the prison service by its Russian acronym.

In another complaint, Navalny, who is considered a flight risk by authorities, said he is woken eight times per night by guards announcing to a recording camera that he is still in his cell.

"Essentially I am being tortured through sleep deprivation," Navalny wrote.

Navalny's lawyers managed to visit him at his prison in the town of Pokrov around 100 kilometers (60 miles) east of Moscow on Thursday after they were denied access to the penal colony the day before.

In a statement on Instagram, Navalny's wife Yulia said later Thursday that her husband had been in pain for the past four weeks and appealed directly to Putin to set his critic free.

"What's happening right now is personal revenge and punishment," Navalny said. "This should stop immediately."

She said Navalny began suffering from back pain in the Moscow detention center and his condition only worsened in the Pokrov prison. Officials have however refused to allow him to be treated properly, his wife said.

'Afraid for his life'

Lawyer Olga Mikhailova said Navalny's condition was "extremely unfavorable."

"He is suffering from strong back pain and pain in his right leg," Mikhailova said in remarks on Dozhd television after visiting him.

"Everyone is afraid for his life and health."

Mikhailova said Navalny's right leg was in "an awful condition" and that we were losing sensation in it.

She said that on Wednesday Navalny had undergone an MRI examination in a hospital outside the prison but doctors did not release any diagnosis.

She demanded that he be transferred to Moscow for treatment.

Another lawyer, Vadim Kobzev, accused prison officials of adopting a "deliberate strategy to undermine his health."

The prison service earlier on Thursday insisted that Navalny has been checked by medics and that "his state of health was assessed as stable and satisfactory".

Navalny's arrest and jailing sparked large-scale protests, an outcry from rights groups in Russia and abroad, and condemnation from Western governments.

The United States and the European Union have slapped sanctions on Russia for jailing Navalny and for allegedly orchestrating last year's poisoning, a charge Moscow has denied.

Protests planned

The Kremlin said it was not following reports of Navalny's health and had not requested information from prison authorities.

"The condition of convicts and people who are serving time in correctional institutions is being monitored by their administrations. That's their job," spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Navalny has been a thorn in the Kremlin's side for a decade by probing corruption among officials and leading large protests throughout Russia.

This week his team launched a campaign seeking his release and announced plans to stage what they said would be "modern Russia's biggest protest."

The team said they would set a date for the protest once 500,000 supporters have been registered with the website free.navalny.com

As of Thursday, 250,000 people had signed up.

From poisoning to prison 'torture'

Coma

The 44-year-old anti-corruption campaigner is hospitalized on August 20, 2020, in Omsk, Siberia, after losing consciousness on a flight.

Put into a medically induced coma, he is transferred two days later to a Berlin hospital at his family's request.

Novichok

Berlin says on September 2 that tests carried out by a German army laboratory yielded "unequivocal evidence" that he was poisoned with Novichok, a Soviet-era chemical weapon.

The European Union and NATO demand an investigation.

Kremlin denial

Two days later the Kremlin rejects claims that it was behind the poisoning.

On September 7 Navalny emerges from the coma.

Labs confirm poisoning

French and Swedish laboratories confirm Germany's findings that Novichok was used.

Putin condemns "unsubstantiated" accusations.

Putin accused

Navalny accuses Putin of being behind his poisoning after he is discharged from hospital on September 22.

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov calls his claims "groundless and unacceptable".

Spooks stung

Navalny releases a recording in October of him tricking a Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) agent into confessing that he tried to kill him.

The FSB describes the phone call as a "provocation".

Defiant return

Navalny says he plans to return home despite a threat of jail.

He is detained on January 17 shortly after landing in Moscow.

He urges Russians to "take to the streets".

'Putin's palace'

Navalny releases a video of his investigation into a lavish Black Sea property he claims is owned by Putin.

It goes viral as Putin denies it is his.

The authorities round up Navalny's allies.

Protests and prison

In late January tens of thousands of demonstrators demand Navalny's release.

Police detain thousands.

On February 2 Navalny is handed a nearly three-year prison term.

The West calls for his immediate release.

Diplomatic crisis

On February 5, the Kremlin expels German, Swedish and Polish diplomats for supporting Navalny.

The three countries expel Russian diplomats in return.

Rights court weighs in

The European Court of Human Rights orders Russia to release Navalny "with immediate effect" on February 17. Russia accuses it of "interference".

Appeal denied

Three days later a Moscow court dismisses Navalny's appeal, reducing the sentence to two-and-a-half years.

Separately he is convicted of defamation and fined 850,000 rubles (around 9,500 euros).

The EU on February 22 sanctions four senior Russian officials.

Penal colony

On February 26 Navalny is sent to a penal colony. Authorities say he is in the Vladimir region some 200 kilometers (124 miles) east of Moscow.

Washington on March 2 sanctions seven senior Russians and says its intelligence concluded that Moscow was behind Navalny's poisoning.

'Torture'

Navalny says on March 15 he is locked up in a "real concentration camp".

On March 25, a lawyer says after visiting him in prison says Navalny is in great pain, adding that allies fear for his life.

In a formal complaint, Navalny accuses Russian authorities of torture by depriving him of sleep in prison.

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