Alexei Navalny's Doctor Arrested as Vladimir Putin Critic Holds Prison Hunger Strike

Russian police have arrested the doctor of jailed pro-democracy and anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny outside the prison where he is currently being held.

Anastasia Vasilyeva, Navalny's personal doctor, was among several people arrested by police outside of the jail in the town of Pokrov, some 60 miles east of Moscow, as activists gathered to demand that Navalny be given adequate medical treatment for back and leg pain, AFP reported.

Navalny—the most prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin—is currently on hunger strike in protest against what he said was the refusal of prison authorities to provide adequate treatment. The 44-year-old has been imprisoned since February, when he was jailed for two and a half years for violating the terms of his probation for a previous conviction.

Navalny violated the probation by failing to report to the authorities on an agreed date. However, he was unable to do so because he was recovering in Germany after being poisoned by Russian security service agents in Siberia in August.

Navalny has said he has developed a heavy cough and a fever, plus that three others in his prison unit have been hospitalized for tuberculosis. His lawyer Olga Mikhailova has said Navalny has lost 28 pounds in weight since being transferred to the penal colony.

Before her arrest, Vasilyeva told the Associated Press that Navalny needed treatment at a "specialised hospital." She added that her patient needed a lung scan and that it was "quite possible" he may have contracted coronavirus while in detention.

World leaders—including President Joe Biden—have demanded Navalny's release, with the White House even applying new sanctions on Russian officials for their roles in his poisoning and arrest.

Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard said Monday she had written to Putin asking that Navalny receive "medical care by health professional he trusts." Callamard, who served as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, said on Twitter there is "a real prospect that #Russia is subjecting him to a slow death."

The Kremlin has so far dismissed all concerns about Navalny's well-being. Presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday that the anti-corruption campaigner would be treated as a normal inmate. "Naturally, we cannot talk about any special conditions for one of the convicts," Peskov told reporters in Moscow.

Anastasia Vasilyeva outside Alexei Navalny prison
Anastasia Vasilyeva walks towards the entrance of the penal colony where Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny is imprisoned in the town of Pokrov, Russia on April 6, 2021. KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images