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Alexei Navalny is sent to prison infirmary after hunger-strike left his life 'hanging by a thread'

Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has been taken to a prison infirmary after his 20-day hunger strike in jail left his life 'hanging by a thread'. 

Medics at the penal colony where Navalny is imprisoned decided to move the opposition politician to an on-site medical facility.

The prison said Navalny's condition is 'satisfactory' and he has been prescribed vitamin therapy. 

It comes after his allies today said they are braced for 'very grave' news about his health when his lawyers see him again after they were kept away over the weekend.

Lyubov Sobol said Navalny's team have 'no hope' that his health will have improved, adding that his state is 'very close to critical'.

Ivan Zhdanov, head of Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation, called the move 'a transfer to the same torture colony, only with a bigger hospital, where they take seriously ill people.

'So it can only be understood to mean Navalny's condition has worsened, and worsened in such a way that even the torturer admits it,' he said on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Russian politicians have told President Vladimir Putin that he 'bears personal responsibility for the life' of Navalny.

Nearly a dozen lawmakers signed and published an open letter to the Russian leader in which they said Navalny's poor state of health 'threatens his life'.

Navalny has been on hunger strike since March 31 because he says Russian prison guards are refusing him 'proper medical care' for acute pain in his back and numbness in his legs. Moscow insists he is being given adequate care.  

Alexei Navalny is showing signs of kidney damage and could die 'at any moment' as he continues a three-week hunger strike over conditions in a US jail, his doctor has said. Pictured: Navalny in jail last month

Navalny: From poisoning to hunger strike 

August 20, 2020: Navalny is hospitalised in Omsk, Siberia, after losing consciousness during a flight

August 22: Navalny is put into a medically induced coma and transferred to a Berlin hospital

September 2: Berlin says tests carried out by a German army laboratory yielded 'unequivocal evidence' that he was poisoned with Novichok

September 4: Russia rejects claims it was behind the poisoning

September 7: Navalny emerges from coma while French and Swedish laboratories confirm Germany's findings that Novichok was used. Putin condemns 'unsubstantiated' accusations

September 22: Navalny accuses Putin of being behind poisoning as he is discharged from hospital. Putin's spokesperson Dmitry Peskov calls his claims 'groundless and unacceptable'

October: Navalny releases a recording 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'.

January 17 2021: Navalny is arrested at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport after Russia's prisons service alleged he had violated parole terms from a suspended sentence on a 2014 embezzlement conviction 

January 19: Navalny releases video of his investigation into 'Putin's palace', a lavish Black Sea property. Putin denies this

January: Tens of thousands of demonstrators demand Navalny's release in late January. Police detain thousands  

February 2: Navalny is handed a near three-year prison term. 

February 5: The Kremlin expels German, Swedish and Polish diplomats for supporting Navalny. The three countries expel Russian diplomats in return

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

February 20: Moscow court dismisses Navalny's appeal, but reduces the sentence to two-and-a-half years   

Separately he is convicted of defamation and fined 850,000 rubles (£8,027)

February 22: The EU sanctions four senior Russian officials

February 26: Navalny sent to penal colony in the Vladimir region  

March 2: The U.S. sanctions seven senior Russians and says its intelligence concluded that Moscow was behind Navalny's poisoning.

March 15: Navalny says he is locked up in a 'real concentration camp' and accuses Russian authorities of torture by depriving him of sleep in prison

March 31: Navalny announces a hunger strike to demand proper medical treatment

April 17: After more than two weeks his doctors say his condition has rapidly deteriorated and he could go into cardiac arrest and 'die any minute'

April 18: The U.S. warns Moscow of 'consequences' if Navalny dies in prison

France, Germany and the European Union join the growing international chorus of protest at Navalny's plight

Today - April 19: Russia's prison service says Navalny will be transferred to a hospital for inmates but deems his condition to be 'satisfactory'

A massive demonstrations in support of Navalny is planned Wednesday evening, just hours after Putin gives his state of the nation address 

A statement from the Russian prison service said: 'The commission of doctors of the FKUZ MSCh-33 of the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia decided to transfer A. Navalny to the inpatient hospital of the regional hospital for convicts located on the territory of IK-3 of the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia in the Vladimir region, which, among other things, specializes in dynamic observation of such patients. 

'At present, A. Navalny's health condition is assessed as satisfactory; he is examined by a general practitioner every day. With the consent of the patient, he was prescribed vitamin therapy.'

'We don't know what happened to him over the weekend because the lawyers aren't allowed to visit him then. I hope we will get some news today but I'm very afraid to receive bad news,' his ally, Lyubov Sobol, told Ekho Moskvy radio station. 

'I think there is no hope we will receive good news about his health today. I think his state is really very close to critical, close to being very grave. Twenty days on hunger strike - that is an awful lot.'

Vladimir Putin's most prominent rival, 44, was imprisoned in February and is serving two-and-a-half years on old embezzlement charges in a penal colony in the town of Pokrov, around 60 miles east of Moscow.  

'The state of health of political prisoner Alexei Navalny threatens his life,' a letter signed by 11 Russian politicians from several regional parliaments, said according to CNN.

The politicians demanded an independent doctor be allowed to visit Navalny immediately as medics have been barred from the penal colony.

It comes after Yaroslav Ashikhmin, a doctor acting on behalf of Navalny's family, said on Saturday test results received from the Russian penal colony where the activist is being held show dangerous levels of potassium in his blood along with signs of kidney failure.

'Our patient could die at any moment,' cardiologist Ashikhmin warned. 'Fatal arrhythmia can develop any minute,' he said, adding Navalny should be moved to intensive care. 

Navalny has been on hunger strike since March 31 because he says Russian prison guards are refusing him 'proper medical care' for acute pain in his back and numbness in his legs. Moscow insists he is being given adequate care but no independent doctors have been able to examine him.

Last week, his team said in an Instagram post quoting him that prison doctors had held back from examining him out of fear of 'it will turn out that the loss of sensation in my limbs may be associated with this [Novichok] poisoning.'

'We regard what is happening in relation to Navalny as an attempt on the life of a politician, committed out of personal and political hatred,' the letter by Russian politicians, which was shared on Saturday, said.

'You, the President of the Russian Federation, personally bear responsibility for the life of Alexei Navalny on the territory of the Russian Federation, including in prison facilities - [you bear this responsibility] to Navalny himself, to his relatives, and to the whole world,' the politicians said in the letter, which is open for the Russian public to sign.

It comes as Leonid Volkov, a top strategist for Navalny, said Navalny's health is deteriorating and called for demonstrations to take place on Wednesday.

'Navalny is now in the colony, his life hanging on a thread,' Volkov said on Sunday in a video.        

'He has been on a hunger strike for several weeks now, demanding medical attention. 

'His condition is critical, and we do not know how much longer he can hold out. But it is clear that we do not have time,' Volkov added, while calling for protests. 

The country's Interior Ministry today called on Russians not to take part in the planned protests. 

'Any aggressive actions by participants in unauthorised public meetings, especially attempts to provoke clashes with law enforcement officials, will be regarded as a threat to public safety and immediately suppressed,' the ministry said.

The treatment of Navalny has sparked outrage among Western powers, with U.S. President Joe Biden yesterday warning Putin there will be consequences if Navalny is allowed to die in jail.   

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said that Biden is weighing up a range of responses if Navalny dies, and that Moscow is aware of the threat. 

Meanwhile EU leaders said sanctions placed on Russia earlier this year could be increased if Navalny perishes, with a summit to discuss the issue today. 

The Kremlin today said they were not monitoring Navalny's health and they rejected foreign leaders' concerns over his well-being.  

'The health of convicts in the Russia Federation cannot and should not be a topic for their interests,' said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, referring to Western countries. He added: 'We do not monitor the health status of Russian prisoners'.

The IK-2 corrective penal colony, where Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny serves his jail term

Russian politicians have told President Vladimir Putin that he 'bears personal responsibility for the life' of Alexei Navalny as the Kremlin critic's life 'hangs by a thread' in prison

Sullivan said Washington is 'looking at a variety of different costs that we would impose... if Mr Navalny dies', while refusing to go into specifics.

He spoke a day after Biden called Navalny's treatment 'unfair' and 'totally inappropriate' when asked about it during a round of golf. 

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov today said Russia would continue to respond in kind if further sanctions were imposed after new U.S. measures last week targeting sovereign debt and blacklisting Russian companies prompted Moscow to retaliate.

'The principle of reciprocity is an absolute constant. These (retaliatory) decisions will keep being taken if similar practice continues.'    

German foreign minister Heiko Maas said the issue will be discussed at a meeting of EU foreign ministers today.

'The package of sanctions is already significant, but there may be others,' French foreign minister Yves le Drain added. 

Josep Borrell, the Europe's top diplomat, described his situation as 'very worrisome' and said Russia must provide treatment.

'We make the Russian authorities responsible for the health situation of Mr Navalny,' Borrell said in a video statement. 

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan (left) has warned Moscow of 'consequences' if Navalny dies, while German foreign minister Heiko Maas has said sanctions could be increased

A regional opposition politician, Lev Shlosberg, said on Facebook that more than 20,000 people had signed an online petition demanding 'access for competent doctors to Alexei Navalny and the release of all political prisoners in Russia'.

Navalny has said prison authorities are threatening to put him in a straitjacket to force-feed him. Russian authorities accuse him of exaggerating his medical condition to grab attention, and of refusing prison medical care. They have pledged to ensure he survives.  

Navalny, an anti-corruption campaigner and Putin's most-prominent critic, was first arrested in January upon his return to Russia following a suspected Novichok poisoning, that is thought to have been carried out by an FSB hit squad.

He was then jailed for two and a half years the following month over an old embezzlement case, and transferred to a penal colony on February 26.

Navalny says he is being denied medical attention for acute pain in his back and numbness in his legs by guards inside the penal colony (pictured) where he is being held 

On March 15 he uploaded his first Instagram post from inside jail, likening conditions to 'a concentration camp' alongside an image of him with a shaved head.

Then, on March 31, Navalny revealed in a hand-written letter posted online by his team that he had gone on hunger strike after being denied proper medical care.

He wrote: 'I really need a doctor. Every convict has the right [by law] to invite a specialist to examine and consult him. Even I have such a right and I'm innocent.

'I demand that a doctor be allowed to see me, and until this happens, I am declaring a hunger strike.'

Russian activists have called for nationwide protests to pressure the government into saving Navalny, after large demonstrations in January were met with a brutal police response  

Navalny has previously posted online about his declining health since he started the strike, saying that prison wardens had threatened to force-feed him.

But the sudden deterioration in his health this weekend prompted Leonid Volkov, a top strategist for Navalny, to call for demonstrations to take place on Wednesday. 

The demonstrations are due to take place in symbolic locations - Manezh Square in Moscow, just outside the Kremlin, and St. Petersburg's sprawling Palace Square. 

Police did not immediately respond, but marchers likely face a harsh crackdown.

Officers arrested more than 10,000 people during demonstrations that took place in January, in what was the largest show of defiance against Putin in years.  

Navalny's wife Yulia, who visited him in the penal colony last Tuesday, said her husband now weighed 168 pounds - down nearly 20 pounds since starting his hunger strike. 

The couple were separated by glass in the penal colony and spoke via telephone. Yulia said Navalny was having difficulty speaking and 'from time to time hangs up and lies down on the table to rest'.  

'I have never seen the skin wrapped around the skull like this, but I know that he is not going to give up,' Yulia wrote on Instagram. 'But after meeting with Alexey, I worry about him even more.'

Russian ambassador to the UK Andrey Kelin told the BBC at the weekend Navalny is 'behaving like a hooligan' and said his life is not in danger.

'Of course he will not be allowed to die in prison, but I can say that Mr Navalny behaves like a hooligan absolutely in trying to violate every rule that has been established,' he said, adding that Navalny was trying 'to attract attention'.            

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