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“The jailers are scurrying around”: Navalny given hot water and medicine after letter from over 500 doctors in his defense

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Incarcerated Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny, who recently fell ill with a respiratory infection after a sick inmate was transferred to his cell, has finally been given antibiotics and hot water, reported Navalny’s lawyer Vadim Kobzev. According to Kobzev, a letter signed by over 500 doctors across Russia in support of Navalny with a demand to stop torturing him had an effect on the prison – the IK-6 maximum security facility in the Vladimir region – changing its stance.

“It wasn't enough for the [penal] colony to keep him in the punishment cell all the time. They needed to keep him sick too. They ‘released’ his cellmate three times, immediately ‘hospitalized’ him at a facility filled with flu and Covid patients, and returned him back to Navalny 24 hours later. In response to Navalny's request to put him in a medical unit, they told him there was no way of that happening, as there was a high risk of contracting a more dangerous kind of virus there. On January 3 he began seeking medical help, and on January 9 he started to feel really bad, with all the classical symptoms of a viral respiratory infection: chills, a high fever, heavy cough, then a mild fever – no higher than 37.1 [Celsius]. In a normal situation that’s not so dangerous, but in a punishment cell, you literally have to carry the flu with you on your feet – the bunk is only unbuckled from the wall at night, simple medicines from a regular pharmacy aren’t accepted, in spite of the reams of applications we wrote to every conceivable address.
An open letter from doctors [across Russia] clearly had an effect, but so far it's the classic [Russian prison] effect – everyone’s scurrying around, they’re taking [Navalny’s] temperature on video, but nothing else is happening. The main piece of good news is that Navalny's condition has stopped deteriorating, and he’s being given antibiotics and extra hot water. Two cups a day. We postponed all the trials until the end of the week. We don't know whether they’ll give him the medicine we handed over, but we hope so. Navalny sends his regards to everyone, thanks everyone for the concern and gives special thanks to the doctors who supported him.”

Navalny also said that he was given a “roommate” who was violent as well as ill – prison officials told him the convict was transferred “so [Navalny] wouldn't get bored”.

“He screams for 14 hours during the day and 3 hours at night. I don't get bored, but I don't get a good night's sleep either. It's especially nice to be sick: during the day you suffer in a cell with a fever and dream about nighttime when they unbuckle the bed, and at night you listen to your neighbor barking away. As you know, sleep deprivation is one of the most effective torture methods.”

On January 11, an open letter to Vladimir Putin demanding that medical professionals attend to Navalny had collected over 500 signatures from doctors across Russia. The appeal also demanded that the politician no longer be sent to the prison’s punishment cell. At the time of writing, the letter has been signed by 626 people.

On December 31, Navalny was sent to a punishment cell for the tenth time. The current 15-day stint was justified by Navalny washing his face half an hour ahead of the official prison schedule.

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