April 8 (UPI) — The Biden administration said it is “disturbed” by reports that jailed Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny’s health was deteriorating, urging Kremlin authorities to take actions to ensure the health and safety of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critic.
Navalny, who was arrested in January and sentenced to 2 1/2 years in jail for violating terms of his parole from an earlier suspended sentence, has been on a hunger strike for about a week in demand of outside medical attention.
His lawyers on Wednesday said his health has been rapidly degrading. Navalny, 44, was moved to the sick ward at the penal colony on Monday for a respiratory illness.
Lawyer Olga Mikhailova told Russian media that Navalny has two herniated disks in his back causing him to lose feeling in his hands, The Washington Post reported.
Mikhailova said Navalny was prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs not used by medicine in 30 years that he refused to take.
“One of the hernias is quite difficult to treat and is not sufficiently described in the diagnosis,” Mikhailova said. “Our neurologist gave us a conclusion that the treatment that was prescribed in the colony was ineffective and could lead to a worsening of his condition.”
Vadim Kobzev, another member of Navalny’s defense, tweeted Wednesday that his client is able to walk by himself but not without pain and “a very disturbing factor is that the disease is clearly progressing in terms of loss of sensitivity in the legs, palms and hands.”
Kobzev said Navalny’s weight has been dropping a kilogram a day amid his hunger strike while all authorities do is try to dissuade him from the protest.
He added that Navalny is still in the medical ward where his temperature is frequently monitored.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington, D.C., the Biden administration urges Russian authorities to ensure Navalny’s health and safety.
“We are disturbed by reports that Mr. Navalny’s health is worsening,” she said. “So long as he is in prison, the Russian government is responsible for his health and well-being. We will continue to monitor the situation closely.”
Navalny was arrested early this year after his plane touched down in Russia following a five-month stay in Germany where he received medical treatment for nerve agent poisoning.
The Kremlin has denied being behind poising Navalny in August while on a flight from Siberia to Moscow.
Psaki on Wednesday reiterated that the United States considers Navalny’s imprisonment politically motivated and “a gross injustice.”
“We stand with like-minded allies and partners in calling for his immediate release, as well as an end to the persecution of his supporters,” she said.