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Russia: Imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s condition ‘becoming dangerous’


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He is serving an 11.5-year sentence for violating parole, fraud and contempt of court, charges he denies.

Alexei Navalny’s chief of staffthe jailed Russian opposition politician, said worsening detention conditions are threatening his health as his Anti-Corruption Foundation prepares to turn upcoming local elections in Moscow into an anti-war protest vote.

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Navalny he was arrested last year in January when he returned to Russia from Germany, where he was hospitalized after a near-fatal attempt to poison him, according to the results of Western laboratory tests, in Siberia with a Soviet-era nerve agent. Russia denies trying to kill him. He is serving an 11.5-year sentence for violating parole, fraud and contempt of court, charges he denies.

In a post on Twitter and Instagram, where he has millions of followers, Navalny wrote last week through his lawyers that he was sent to a special cell for the third time in August, in retaliation for his political action. The Prison Service did not respond to a request for comment.

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The cell, measuring 2 by 3 meters, in which there is a table, a chair and a bed that remains folded from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., marks a significant deterioration in the opposition leader’s detention conditions, his chief of staff, Leonid Volkov, told Reuters in an interview.

“Suddenly, three weeks ago, they started to dramatically worsen his conditions, which actually poses a huge threat to his health, as no normal person could spend a long time in this ‘special’ cell,” he said. Volkov from Vilnius, Lithuania, where most of Navalny’s organization has been based since its activities were outlawed in Russia.

“And for Alexei, who just survived the poisoning, it is especially dangerous”stated Volkov, who remains in contact with him through lawyers, adding that Navalny is still “mentally and physically in very good shape.”

Volkov said his team has no idea what is going through Vladimir Putin’s mind and tries not to think about it. “The fact that Putin is losing (the war) and becoming less and less predictable makes the situation more dangerous,” he said.

Both the Kremlin and Putin say the ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine is going according to plan and was made necessary as the US used Ukraine to threaten Russia through NATO expansion and persecution of Russian speakers. Ukraine and its Western allies argue that these are unfounded pretexts for an unprovoked war of conquest.

Volkov said that once Putin is out of the spotlight, Navalny will be freed, but there are no other certainties as Western influence in Moscow, which had helped improve detention conditions in the past, ended when Russia invaded Ukraine.

After the invasion in February, Navalny’s team turned to YouTube broadcasts to sway public opinion against Putin’s war, reaching 15 million people in Russia, Volkov said.

“We know that our business is helping to slowly change public opinion … It will take two to three years for the attitude of Russian society to change dramatically and for its war to become so unpopular that it can no longer continue,” he said.

Navalny’s team hopes to turn Sunday’s municipal elections in Moscow into a protest vote by announcing support for 400 candidates it says oppose the conflict.

“They are facing a lot of pressure, even violence and brutality… They are being beaten,” he said. “So there are really bad things going on and people are still fighting and we’re supporting them.”

The Kremlin did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Volkov’s claims, which Reuters could not immediately reach. Volkov warned against proposals to exclude Russians from the European Union, which the Baltic states and Russia’s bordering Poland are promoting, saying they were a propaganda gift to the Kremlin and that sanctions against key figures would have a better effect result.


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