January 16, 2023

"Stop Bullying" Navalny


"Stop Bullying" Navalny
Alexei Navalny on a march in memory of politician Boris Nemtsov, who was killed outside the Kremlin in 2015. Michał Siergiejevicz, Wikimedia Commons.

Medical workers from Russia, the United States, Spain, Germany, the United Kingdom, and other countries have called on the Russian state to "stop bullying" and to provide medical care to Alexei Navalny, an imprisoned opposition politician. On January 10, an open letter was published and signed by over 600 medical workers. 

"We demand to stop bullying Alexei Navalny, we demand to stop sending Alexei to punitive confinement, we demand to allow civilian doctors to visit him and, if there are indications, to hospitalize him in a civilian hospital for a full examination and treatment," the letter says.

According to the BBC, Navalny was in punitive confinement over the New Year holidays. After the holidays he fell ill: he has a fever and cough. Despite that, the prison authorities did not allow Navalny's hospitalization, ostensibly because there are influenza patients in the colony's medical unit. The authorities also forbade Vadim Kobzev, the politician's lawyer, from sending him medicine. 

Navalny said that he is sure the colony's authorities are deliberately endangering his health. On Instagram he wrote that, during the New Year holidays, his cellmate was regularly sent to the medical unit for a day and then returned to their cell. Navalny said he believes that prisoner was being used as a sort of "bacteriological weapon."

Navalny was confined to the strict-regime penal colony in Melekhovo, Vladimir Oblast, in June 2022, and this is not the first allegation of a biased attitude of the colony's authorities towards the politician. Since August, Navalny has been sent to punitive confinement 10 times, reportedly for very strange reasons: he unbuttoned a button on his prison uniform, cleaned the exercise yard poorly, and spoke negatively about mobilization.

According to Navalny, every 10 days he spends in punitive confinement he loses 3.5 kilograms, and because it is forbidden to lie in bed during the day, the politician reports having a backache. In addition, because of constant “violations,” Navalny has been deprived of long visits with relatives and the opportunity to leave his cell.

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