Russian Officials Denounce Aleksei Navalny’s Treatment in Prison

Russian Officials Denounce Aleksei Navalny’s Treatment in Prison

The Russian opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny, whose health has deteriorated in prison, has gotten another unusual public show of support, as dozens of current and former municipal deputies and local lawmakers signed an open letter on Wednesday demanding that he receive more humane treatment and access to proper medical care.

Their open letter to President Vladimir V. Putin is the latest in a series of public appeals from members of Russian civil society who have braved his crackdown on dissent since the invasion of Ukraine. Last week, hundreds of Russian doctors signed a petition imploring Mr. Putin to “stop abusing” Mr. Navalny. And dozens of Russian lawyers signed a similar letter this week, the independent news outlet Meduza reported.

Mr. Navalny’s health has deteriorated in the harsh conditions of his imprisonment. In late December, posting on Twitter, Mr. Navalny said he believed that Russian officials were intentionally endangering his health to bend him to their will. His wife has urged prison officials to provide him with medicine.

Wednesday’s letter was signed by Russian deputies representing cities and regions across the country, who said that despite the federal government’s aggressive clampdown on free speech, support and concern for Mr. Navalny remained.

“It is very clear to everyone who follows Aleksei’s life — the purpose of his continuous incarceration in a punishment cell is to create unbearable conditions for him the penal colony and to cause harm to his physical and mental health, as well as to create a threat to his life,” the letter said. It added that the deputies had constituents who had supported Mr. Navalny’s political activities and his fight against corruption for years.

The letter, which contained the signatories’ full names and titles, was addressed to Mr. Putin as well as Russia’s prosecutor general and the Human Rights Council of the Russian Federation. It demanded, among other things, that Mr. Navalny be removed from punishment cells and given timely medical care or access to civilian hospitals if needed.

Such public dissent has become particularly rare in Russia since Mr. Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine and then effectively criminalized any public opposition to it. The risks are serious: One Russian lawmaker was sentenced to seven years in prison this summer for denouncing the war.

The Russian officials who signed the open letter acknowledged the grave risk they were taking, but argued that silence over Mr. Navalny’s treatment was not an option.

“Even expressing one’s opinion on the Internet is fraught with high risks of prosecution, administrative and criminal. Therefore, it looks to you like everything is in order — no one protests, everyone is silent,” they said. “We are not silent.”


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