‘He Speaks With Difficulty’: Navalny’s Wife Says She’s Growing More Concerned For His Health

Aleksei Navalny attends a court hearing in Moscow in February.  

The wife of jailed Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny says she is growing more concerned over his health as the toll of prison life and a hunger strike mounts.

Yulia Navalnaya said in a post on Instagram that she visited the Kremlin critic on April 13 at the prison where he is serving 2 1/2 years for an embezzlement conviction widely considered as politically trumped-up.

Navalnaya said the two spoke via telephone and could see each other through a glass barrier in what she called "the best date of my life."

"He is just as cheerful and fun. But he speaks with difficulty and from time to time hangs up and lies down on the table to rest," she wrote in the post, noting his weight was down to 76 kilograms, 17 less than when he entered the notorious Correctional Colony No. 2, about 100 kilometers from Moscow.

"I know that he is not going to give up…. But after the visit with Aleksei, I worry about him even more," she added.

Navalny was arrested in January on his arrival from Germany, where he was treated for poisoning in Siberia with what was defined by European labs as a nerve agent in August 2020. Navalny accused President Vladimir Putin of ordering the poisoning, which the Kremlin has denied.

In February, a Moscow court ruled that while in Germany, Navalny had violated the terms of parole from an old embezzlement case that is widely considered as being politically motivated.

His 3 1/2-year suspended sentence from the case was converted into a prison term, though the court said he will serve a shorter sentence given time he had been held in detention.

Navalny has complained recently of back pain and numbness in his hands and legs and has accused the authorities of withholding adequate medical treatment.

Navalnaya said the prison was still refusing to allow her husband to be examined by an independent doctor, even though Russian law provides for such care.

"This is a completely legal right for any person — the right to see a doctor. I have never seen skin wrapped so tightly around a skull like his now is," she said in describing the effects of illness and weight loss on her husband.

Earlier in the day Navalny said he had filed a lawsuit against the administration of the prison for not allowing him to read the Koran.

Navalny wrote on Instagram on April 13 that the holy book for Muslims and all of the other books he brought with him to the penitentiary in early March had been withheld, as the guards said that they needed three months to check all his books — including the Koran — for extremism.

"The problem is that they have not given me my Koran. When they incarcerated me, I made a list of tasks to improve myself while in prison. One of such points was to study deeply and understand the Koran and the Prophet’s followers…. I understood that my development as a Christian also requires the study of the Koran," Navalny wrote in the post.

Navalny’s statement came on the first day of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, during which practicing Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, smoking, and sex from dawn to sunset.

Some 10 percent of Russia’s more than 144 million population are Muslims or from an Islamic cultural background.

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