Lawyer: Russian opposition leader Navalny has a double hernia

MOSCOW (AP) – A lawyer for jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who complained of severe back and leg pain in detention, said doctors found him suffering from a double hernia.

Olga Mikhailova told independent TV channel Dozhd on Wednesday that Navalny was also starting to lose the feeling in her hands.

Navalny went on a hunger strike last week to protest what he called poor medical care. On Tuesday, the leader of the Alliance of Doctors union, backed by Navalny, was arrested by police after trying to enter the prison to speak to doctors.

Navalny, 44, is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest opponent. He was arrested in January on his return from Germany to Moscow, where he spent five months recovering from poisoning with a nerve agent he attributes to the Kremlin. Russian authorities have dismissed the accusation. Yet labs in Germany and elsewhere in Europe have confirmed that Navalny was poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok.

A Russian court ordered Navalny in February to serve two and a half years in prison for violating the terms of his probation, including when he was recovering in Germany, after a conviction for embezzlement in 2014. Navalny rejected the conviction as fabricated and the European Court of Human Rights found it “arbitrary and patently unreasonable”.

Last month, authorities transferred Navalny from a Moscow prison to the IK-2 penal colony in the Vladimir region, 85 kilometers east of the Russian capital. The establishment in the town of Pokrov stands out among Russian penitentiaries for its particularly strict detention habits, which include standing at attention for hours.

Weeks after being jailed, Navalny said he developed severe back and leg pain and was indeed deprived of sleep because a guard watched him hourly at night. He went on a hunger strike on March 31, demanding access to appropriate medication and a visit from his doctor.

The Russian State Prison Service said Navalny was receiving all the medical help he needed.

Mikhailova did not specify where Navalny’s hernias were, but said one of them was difficult to treat and a neurologist consulted by Navalny’s organization said the treatment prescribed in the prison was ineffective.

In an Instagram post on Monday, Navalny said three of the 15 people he is staying with have been diagnosed with tuberculosis, a contagious disease that spreads through the air. He said he had a strong cough and fever with a temperature of 38.1 degrees Celsius (100.6 F).

On Monday, the state prison service said Navalny had been the prison health unit after a health check found he had “signs of respiratory illness, including a high fever.”

Mikhailova said on Wednesday that Navalny’s fever has gone down, but he is still coughing and weak from the hunger strike.

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