Alexei Navalny Says Hunger Strike Has Left 'A Skeleton' Who 'Staggers Around His Cell'

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is imprisoned and in the midst of a hunger strike, described himself on Tuesday in an Instagram post as "a skeleton" who "staggers around his cell."

Navalny's personal physician, Dr. Anastasia Vasilyeva, and three other doctors were prohibited from visiting Navalny on Tuesday after he was transferred from a penal colony east of Moscow to a hospital prison unit in the Russian city of Vladimir as his health deteriorates because of his three-week hunger strike, according to the Associated Press.

"You would laugh if you see me now—a skeleton staggers around his cell," Nalvany's Instagram post read. "They can use me to scare children who refuse to eat: 'If you don't eat porridge, you will be like that man with big ears, shaven head and hollow eyes.'"

Vasilyeva on Tuesday tweeted an extensive list of more than 50 cities worldwide where Russians are slated to rally on Wednesday in support of Nalvany.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Russian Prison Hospital in Vladimir
A photo taken on April 20, 2021, of the IK-3 penal colony, in the Russian city of Vladimir, where jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny was reportedly transferred. Russia's penitentiary service said on April 19 that it was transferring Navalny to a prison hospital. Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP via Getty Images

Navalny added a serious note that he was glad to hear from his lawyer about broad sympathy and support for him in Russia and abroad.

His lawyer, Vadim Kobzev, tweeted that Navalny has received only one glucose injection since Sunday at the hospital unit, which is intended to treat tuberculosis patients.

Six other attempts to give him a shot failed because paramedics apparently weren't qualified enough to find his vein, he said. "His arms are all blue with the shots," Kobzev said.

Reports about Navalny's rapidly deteriorating health have drawn international outrage.

Vasilyeva and three other doctors were denied entry to see Navalny after waiting for hours outside the gates.

"It's a show of disrespect and mockery of the doctors," Vasilyeva tweeted, adding that Navalny's "life and health are clearly in danger."

Navalny, who is Russian President Vladimir Putin's most adamant opponent, has been on a hunger strike since March 31 to protest the refusal by prison officials to let his doctors visit him and provide adequate treatment for back pains and numbness in his legs.

Russia's penitentiary service insists that Navalny was getting all the medical help he needs.

Navalny was arrested in January upon his return from Germany, where he had spent five months convalescing from the Novichok nerve agent poisoning he blames on the Kremlin—an accusation Russian officials have rejected. His arrest triggered the biggest protests seen across Russia in recent years.

In February, a Moscow court ordered him to serve 2 1/2 years in prison on a 2014 embezzlement conviction that the European Court of Human Rights deemed to be "arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable."

The prison service said in a statement Monday that Navalny's condition was deemed "satisfactory," but another of his physicians, Dr. Yaroslav Ashikhmin, said over the weekend that test results provided by his family show Navalny has sharply elevated levels of potassium, which can bring on cardiac arrest, as well as heightened creatinine levels that indicate impaired kidney function.

Despite his worsening condition, Navalny still showed his sardonic humor.

"I laughed when I saw medical luminaries' comments that with such a level of potassium that I had in my tests, I should have been either in emergency care or in a coffin," he went on. "No, they wouldn't get me that easily. I wouldn't be scared with potassium after Novichok."

In response to Navalny's deteriorating health, his associates have called for a nationwide rally Wednesday, the same day that Putin is scheduled to deliver his annual state of the nation address.

Russian authorities, meanwhile, have escalated their crackdown on Navalny's allies and supporters, with the Moscow prosecutor's office asking a court to brand Navalny's Foundation for Fighting Corruption and his network of regional offices as extremist organizations.

Human rights activists say such a move would paralyze their activities and expose their members and donors to prison sentences of up to 10 years.