Jailed Putin’s critic Alexey Navalny moved to sick ward week after declaring hunger strike

Jailed Putin’s critic Alexey Navalny was moved to the sick ward with symptoms of a respiratory illness and has been tested for the coronavirus, the Izvestia newspaper reported on Monday, after he said he had a high temperature and cough.

Navalny, a prominent Kremlin critic who declared a hunger strike last week and accused prison staff of denying him proper treatment for acute back and leg pain, alleged earlier there was a tuberculosis outbreak in his ward.

The 44-year-old politician whose release the West has demanded said three people from his ward had been hospitalised with tuberculosis and joked darkly that catching the disease might offer him relief from his other ailments.

“If I have tuberculosis, then maybe it’ll chase out the pain in my back and numbness in my legs. That’d be nice,” he said on Instagram.

He said that prison authorities had measured his temperature at 38.1 degrees Celsius. He also said he had a bad cough.

“P.S. I am continuing my hunger strike, of course,” Navalny said.

Hours later, Izvestia, a pro-Kremlin newspaper, cited a statement by the federal prison service saying that he had been moved to a sick ward and had various tests, including for the coronavirus.

Navalny has accused prison authorities there of depriving him of sleep by waking him up hourly at night and refusing to give him proper medical care.

Prison authorities deny sleep deprivation and have said previously that Navalny’s condition was satisfactory and that he has been provided with all necessary treatment.

State media and some members of a prison monitoring group have accused Navalny of faking his medical problems to keep himself in the public eye, which Navalny and his allies deny.