Alexei Navalny announces hunger strike to protest inadequate medical care and torturous sleep deprivation
© WikiMedia (Evgeny Feldman / Novaya Gazeta)
Alexei Navalny announces hunger strike to protest inadequate medical care and torturous sleep deprivation

Jailed Putin critic Alexei Navalny announced in a handwritten letter posted to social media on March 31 that he is going on a hunger strike to protest his lack of adequate medical treatment and sleep deprivation that amounts to torture at the IK-2 prison in Pokrov.

Navalny was sentenced in February to 2 1/2 years in prison for violating his terms of probation in a 2014 embezzlement case. Navalny has called the claims of parole violation “fabricated” primarily because he was unable to meet with authorities while undergoing medical treatment in Germany for nerve agent poisoning. The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that his imprisonment was a violation of Article 34 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The IK-2 prison where Navalny is being held, located approximately 100 east of Moscow, is known for its “particularly strict inmate routines, which include standing at attention for hours.”

Navalny’s announcement of a hunger strike follows his repeated requests for adequate medical care to address back and leg pain so severe that he finds it impossible to stand or walk. Posts to his social media accounts state that he has asked for painkilling injections but was only given two ibuprofen by prison authorities. He also reported that he is being woken up eight times per night by guards who have labeled him as a flight risk and maintains that such techniques of sleep deprivation amount to torture. Prison authorities, however, state that Navalny’s health “remains stable and satisfactory.”

On Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron participated in a video conference call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, during which they “emphasized the need for Russia to protect Navalny’s health and to respect his rights in compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights.” US State Department spokesman Ned Price on Wednesday stated that Navalny’s detention was “politically motivated” and the US will “continue seeking accountability for those in Russia who may be responsible for the attempt on his life . . . and we will continue to find ways to support [Navalny] and to call for his release.”

In his handwritten letter from March 31, Navalny wrote:

Why do prisoners go on hunger strikes? This question worries only those who have not been prisoners. From outside, everything looks complicated. But from the inside, it’s simple: You don’t have any other methods of struggle, so you go on a hunger strike … I have the right to call a doctor and get medicine. They don’t give me either one or the other. The back pain has moved to the leg. Areas of the right and now the left leg have lost sensitivity … And instead of medical assistance, I am tortured with sleep deprivation (they wake me up 8 times a night), and the administration persuading the activist convicts (aka “goats”) to intimidate ordinary convicts so that they do not clean around my bed. They just say: “Lesha, I’m sorry, but we are stupidly afraid. This is the Vladimir region. The life of a prisoner is worth less than a pack of cigarettes. ” Well … what to do? I went on a hunger strike demanding that the law be obeyed and that an invited doctor be allowed to visit me. So I’m lying hungry, but so far with two legs.

Navalny’s team is gearing up for another round of protests, calling for individuals throughout Russia to proclaim their willingness to protest while anonymously specifying their location.