Longtime Vladimir Putin critic Alexei Navalny is in deteriorating physical condition as he remains in an isolated Russian prison camp, according to allies and lawyers who were scheduled to meet with him Wednesday.
The 44-year-old was sent to a “completely lawless” penal colony last month to serve a two-and-a-half-year sentence on embezzlement charges that human rights advocates have called fabricated and politically motivated.
The dissident was arrested after returning from Germany, where doctors said he was twice poisoned with a Soviet-era nerve agent.
Navalny began experiencing serious back pain last week along with a leg numbness that left him unable to stand, ally Leonid Volkov said. The political prisoner said he was only given two Ibuprofen by doctors in response to the pain.
Navalny’s lawyers said they were not allowed to visit him for a scheduled daily meeting Wednesday due to “unspecified security measures,” raising concern that prison administrators were trying to cover up the severity of his illness.
Prison officials did not respond to a request for comment.
“Given all of the circumstances known to us, the sharp deterioration of his health can only cause extreme concern,” Volkov said.
The news from the notoriously strict prison comes a day after protestors announced plans to stage the largest anti-Kremlin protest in modern history this spring, in a push to free Navalny.
Kremlin officials warn any demonstrations are illegal, and claim Navalny is a puppet sent by Western countries to destabilize Moscow.
An Instagram account run by Navalny’s supporters documented his health problems Wednesday, according to The Guardian.
An earlier post quoting a letter from the prisoner reportedly described penal colony IK-2 in Pokrov as a “genuine concentration camp 100km from Moscow,” and compared the atmosphere to George Orwell’s 1984.
In another letter from prison published on Instagram this week, Navalny compared his fellow inmates to Star Wars stormtroopers, The Guardian said.
“They have cigarettes in their teeth. Instead of laser rifles, they have metal crowbars,” he reportedly wrote. “But wherever they may be, at 6.05 they listen to the national anthem, at 6.10 they do their exercises, and at 6.30 they put out the porridge in their metal bowls and pour sweet tea into their metal cups. May the force be with you.”
With Post wires