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Hunger-striking Russian opposition leader Navalny says prison officials threatening to force-feed him

Putin critic Navalny ill amid hunger strike
Putin critic Navalny ill on hunger strike, moved to prison medical ward with respiratory illness 01:40

Moscow — Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, who's been on hunger strike for more than two weeks, said on Friday that prison officials had threatened to force-feed him. Last month the fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin announced that he would stop eating to demand proper medical care after complaining of back pain and numbness in his legs.

"This morning, a woman colonel stood over me and she said: Your blood test indicates a serious deterioration in health and risk," Navalny, 44, said in an Instagram post made on his behalf by his team. "If you do not give up on your hunger strike, then we are ready to move on to force-feeding," the post quoted the prison official as saying.

According to Navalny, he was warned that the process of force-feeding involved the use of a strait jacket. The prison service wasn't immediately available for comment. 

Navalny was sentenced earlier this year to two and a half years in prison for violating the terms of a previous suspended sentence. He was arrested in January soon after his return to Moscow from Berlin, where he spent five months recovering from severe poisoning with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok. 

Navalny has been demanding access to a doctor of his choice for weeks. His family and associates fear that the deterioration in his health is connected to the last year's poisoning. He has lost at least 33 pounds since he arrived at the facility last month, according to his allies.

His wife, Yulia Navalnaya, visited him in prison earlier this week and said he was physically weak but still upbeat. 

"I have never seen skin wrapped around a skull like that, but I know that he is not going to give up," she said in social media posts after her visit. 

Navalny has been moved back to his cell from the prison infirmary, where he was sent last week with a fever and severe cough. Prison officials said he was tested for tuberculosis and the coronavirus, but that both tests came back negative. 

The politician and his supporters insist that all the allegations against him are politically motivated and that the Kremlin was behind the poisoning attack, allegations that have been denied by Russian officials.

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