A close ally of the imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has alleged that he has been poisoned.
Navalny is said to be suffering from severe stomach pains while being held inside the IK-6 penal colony in Melekhovo. The symptoms are a pattern of slow-acting poison, according to close ally and Russian political activist Ruslan Shaveddinov.
Speaking to the Guardian, Mr Shaveddinov said: “His situation is critical, we are all very concerned. We understand that the situation must have been very bad if an ambulance was called."
Navalny has been held at the penal colony since February 2021, after receiving a sentence a total of 11-and-a-half years for fraud and contempt of court charges. He has been poisoned in the past, being hospitalised three years ago in Berlin after being poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent on a plan in Siberia.
He returned to Russia after recovering in the Berlin hospital. It was on his return that he was arrested by authorities.
Navalny, who won 27% of the vote on the 2014 Moscow mayoral election, grew to prominence in the 2010s as an anti-Putin activist, accusing high profile Russian politicians of corruption. The Kremlin has accused Navalny and his associates of being extremists with links to the CIA.
Shaveddinov has accused Russian authorities of "gradually killing him" with poison-laced food in the colony. He added: “It might sound like paranoia, but after the novichok poisoning, it seems completely plausible. He lost 8kg in two weeks, this hasn’t happened before and the doctors are not telling him why he is in so much pain."
Navalny's spokesperson, Kira Yarmysh, confirmed that stomach symptoms had appeared on Friday 14 April. She added that doctors inside the penal colony had been treating his stomach pains in the past with an unidentified medicine injected into him.
Ms Yarmysh said: “We do not rule out that at this very time Alexei Navalny is being slowly poisoned, being killed slowly so that it attracts less attention. He is being held in a punishment cell with acute pain without medical help”.
The Kremlin has not responded to the claims. Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Vladimir Putin, told reporters that the Kremlin was not following Navalny's health, adding that the federal penitentiary service took to deal with these matter. The service has not commented on the allegations, but has in the past refused that prison employees have been mistreating Navalny throughout his sentence.