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Navalny says he’s continuing hunger strike despite a high temperature and bad cough

Vladimir Gerdo/TASS

Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny is continuing his hunger strike despite having a high temperature and a bad cough, according to a post shared by his team on his official Instagram account.

Navalny went on hunger strike last week to protest against prison officials’ refusal to grant him access to proper medical care. He had been suffering from acute back pain that had affected his ability to walk and his condition was being exacerbated by alleged “torture by sleep deprivation,” one of his lawyers said last month.

Navalny said the prison didn’t have the sustenance and nutrients required to keep inmates healthy, adding his temperature was recorded as 38.1 degrees Celsius (100.6 Fahrenheit) and that he had a severe cough.

The Kremlin said Tuesday that Navalny will not receive any special conditions or treatment during his time in prison. He has been tested for Covid-19 and the result is negative, Navalny’s lawyer Vadim Kobzev told CNN on Wednesday.

In the post on Monday, Navalny also said there was a tuberculosis outbreak amongst his cellmates, with three out of the group’s 15 prisoners recently hospitalized with the disease.

“And what? Do you think there is a state of emergency, ambulance sirens are blaring? No-one cares, the bosses are worried only about how to hide the statistics,” Navalny said in the post.

A prominent opposition-linked doctors’ union, Doctors’ Alliance, scheduled a protest in support of Navalny on Tuesday outside the penal colony No.2 in Pokrov, where the Kremlin critic is being held. The group is run by an ally of Navalny who said the protesters will demand proper medical attention for the opposition figure.

Russian newspaper Izvestia on Monday quoted the Russian prison services (FSIN) as saying that Navalny has been moved to a “medical unit with acute respiratory infections” and that he has been tested for coronavirus. FSIN have not responded to a request for comment from CNN.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he’s aware of reports that Navalny was in a medical unit but didn’t elaborate further.

Peskov said Navalny’s treatment was a matter for the prison services and that he would not get any special treatment.

“All the necessary activities are carried out there. And naturally, there can be no talk of any special conditions for one of the convicts. There are certain rules, including rules for the treatment of prisoners who are sick. Therefore, if we are really talking about a disease, then treatment will be provided at the prescribed level,” the Kremlin spokesman said during a conference call with journalists on Tuesday.

‘Practically exemplary’ penal colony

In the post shared on Monday, Navalny also criticized Russian state media’s recent coverage of conditions inside the penal colony.

Last week, a film crew from Russia’s state-controlled TV network RT visited the prison with Maria Butina, a Russian gun-rights enthusiast-turned TV personality who now works for the network. The report said the prison was “practically exemplary.”

Butina was convicted of conspiring to act as an agent for a foreign state in the United States and served more than 15 months behind bars in Florida. She pleaded guilty of trying to infiltrate conservative political circles and promote Russian interests before and after the 2016 presidential election.

Navalny pushed back against RT’s assessment of the conditions.

“This is what our ‘ideal, exemplary colony’ looks like. Any prisoner prays to God not to get here, but inside there are unsanitary conditions, tuberculosis, lack of medications. Looking at the awful plates, in which they put our gruel, I am generally surprised that there is no Ebola virus here yet,” Navalny said in the Instagram post on Monday.

“I have a legally guaranteed right to invite a specialist doctor at my own expense. I will not give it up, prison doctors can be trusted just as much as state TV,” he added.

Navalny, a long-time critic of President Vladimir Putin, was jailed earlier this year for violating the probation terms of a 2014 case in which he received a suspended sentence of three and a half years. A Moscow court took into account the 11 months Navalny had already spent under house arrest as part of the decision and replaced the remainder of the suspended sentence with a prison term last month.

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