Alexei Navalny, an imprisoned Kremlin critic, is at risk of cardiac arrest at “any moment” as his health has rapidly deteriorated, doctors warned Saturday, urging immediate access to the most famous prisoner in the country. Russia.
On March 31, Vladimir Putin’s most prominent opponent went on a hunger strike to demand proper medical treatment for back pain and numbness in the legs and hands.
On Saturday, Joe Biden added his voice to a growing international chorus protesting the activist’s treatment, describing his situation as “totally unfair.”
Navalny, 44, was jailed in February and is serving two and a half years on charges of embezzlement in a penal colony in the city of Pokrov, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) east of Moscow.
Navalny’s personal physician, Anastasia Vasilyeva, and three other doctors, including cardiologist Yaroslav Ashikhmin, have asked prison officials to allow them immediate access.
“Our patient can die at any moment,” Ashikhmin said on Facebook on Saturday, pointing to the opposition politician’s high potassium levels and saying Navalny should be transferred to intensive care. “Fatal arrhythmia can develop at any time.”
Navalny barely survived a novichok nerve agent poisoning in August for which he has blamed the Kremlin. Her doctors say her hunger strike may have exacerbated her condition.
Having blood potassium levels greater than 6.0 mmol (millimoles) per liter usually requires immediate treatment. Navalny’s were at 7.1, medics said. “This means that both kidney function is impaired and serious heart rhythm problems can occur at any time,” said a statement on Vasilyeva’s Twitter account.
Doctors said he had to be examined immediately “taking into account the blood tests and his recent poisoning.”
Navalny spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh, who accompanied him when he collapsed from a plane after the poisoning in August, said the situation was critical again. “Alexei is dying,” he said on Facebook. “With his condition, it is a matter of days.”
He said it felt like he was “on that plane again, only this time it was landing in slow motion,” noting that access to Navalny was restricted and few Russians were aware of what was really going on with him in prison.
On Saturday, responding to journalists’ questions about Navalny’s plight, Biden responded: “It’s totally, totally unfair, totally inappropriate.”
More than 70 prominent international writers, artists and scholars, including Jude Law, Vanessa Redgrave and Benedict Cumberbatch, have asked Putin to ensure that Navalny receives the proper treatment immediately. His appeal was published Friday night by the French newspaper Le Monde.
Navalny’s team had previously announced plans to organize what they said would be “the biggest protest in modern Russia.” Navalny’s allies said they would set a date for the protest once 500,000 supporters had registered on a website. As of 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, more than 450,000 people had registered.
Yarmysh on Saturday urged more Russians to sign up, saying a large rally could help save Navalny’s life. “Putin only reacts to massive street protests,” he added.
Earlier this week, Navalny’s wife Yulia, who visited him in the penal colony, said her husband now weighed 76 kg, 9 kg less since his hunger strike began.
On Friday, Russian prosecutors asked a court to label the Navalny Anti-Corruption Foundation and the network of its regional offices as “extremist” organizations in a move that would ban them in Russia and could result in jail terms for their members.
“The darkest times are beginning for free-thinking people, for civil society in Russia,” said Leonid Volkov, director of Navalny’s regional offices.