Russia moves Alexey Navalny to prison hospital as allies warn his life is at risk

The Kremlin critic’s allies say he could die within days.

Russia’s prison service said it is moving the jailed opposition leader Alexey Navalny to a hospital at another prison camp, as Navalny’s allies continue to warn that he is dangerously ill and could die within days.

International concerns has been growing for Navalny after his team said his life is “hanging by a thread.” His health rapidly deteriorated during a hunger strike he declared nearly three weeks ago. His doctors have warned that blood tests show dangerously high levels of potassium, meaning Navalny could suffer heart failure “at any moment” and that his kidneys may also be failing.

Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service on Monday said Navalny’s condition was “satisfactory” and that he was being examined by a doctor every day and that he had agreed to start taking vitamins.

It said Navalny, 44, was being moved to a hospital which “specializes in dynamic observation for such patients.”

The hospital is located at Correctional Facility No. 3 in the city of Vladimir about 60 miles east of Moscow and not far from Navalny’s current prison.

Navalny’s team, however, dismissed the claim Navalny was being now being hospitalized, saying in reality he is essentially just being moved to another prison, where he will not receive proper treatment. They claim the facility is mostly used for tuberculosis patients.

“Please stop writing that Navalny has been transferred to hospital. It’s not a hospital,” Maria Pevchikh, an investigator at Navalny’s Anti-corruption Foundation, wrote on Twitter. “It’s just a different penal colony that has the same tortuous conditions, same everything apart from the fact that there are a few formally qualified doctors on site. This changes nothing.”

Ivan Zhdanov, a top lieutenant of Navalny’s, wrote that the move just showed that “Navalny’s condition has worsened.”

“And worsened so much that even the torture camp acknowledges it,” he wrote on Twitter.

The prison and the hospital where Navalny is being sent was featured in a 2018 report by the Russian news website The Daily Storm, which quoted inmates describing it as a frightening place where prisoners from other camps were sometimes sent for “re-education.”

The article alleged prisoners were frightened to be transferred to the prison because of its reputation for frequent torture and lack of oversight.

Navalny began his hunger strike 20 days ago in protest at the prison’s refusal to allow his doctors to treat him for severe back pain, believed to be caused by two herniated discs.

Since Friday, Navalny’s team and his doctors have been warning that Navalny’s condition has gone into rapid decline, perhaps in part because of the lasting effects of the nerve agent poisoning that he narrowly survived last year. Navalny’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh has said the threat to Navalny’s life is as serious as when he was poisoned.

His team have called for mass protests this Wednesday, pleading with people to join them and saying only a large turnout can save Navalny’s life. They accused the Kremlin on Sunday in a post of “killing Navalny for a second time before the eyes of all Russia.”

It comes amid signs the Kremlin may now be determined to destroy Navalny’s movement entirely, with authorities moving to outlaw his organizations as “extremist groups” that would effectively make anyone actively supporting Navalny at risk of long prison sentences.

Many of Navalny’s key allies are already under house arrest or now overseas. On Monday, another leading member of Navalny’s team, Vladimir Milov, said he had left the country to avoid being arrested.

The dire pleas from Navalny’s team have prompted the Biden administration and European countries to warn Russia that it will face consequences if Navalny dies.

The Kremlin’s spokesman on Monday rebuffed those warnings and told reporters he had “no information” on Navalny’s current condition.

Asked about the international warnings, the spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “The health of convicts and prisoners in the territory of Russia cannot and should not be an issue of their interest.”

Peskov warned that the protests on Wednesday would be “illegal” if they did not receive permission to go ahead, which is highly unlikely.