Russian President Vladimir Putin’s political opposition has taken to the streets once again in cities across the country. They were ignited by the imprisonment of opposition leader Alexey Navalny, who is said to be near death in the prison infirmary, partly the result of a 24-day hunger strike, which he ended Friday.
Last month, President Biden announced new sanctions against Russia for incarcerating Navalny, who has become an international symbol of freedom in an increasingly autocratic country.
Navalny was taken into custody as he returned to Russia in January after treatment in Germany for a near-fatal poisoning. We spoke last fall in Berlin, as he recovered. As we reported then, he told us he was aboard a flight from Siberia to Moscow when he began to feel very sick.
Alexey Navalny’s wife Yulia says her imprisoned husband “has already won” despite ongoing struggle in Putin’s Russia
Alexey Navalny: I said to the flight attendant, and I kind of shocked him with my statement, “Well, I was poisoned and I’m gonna die.” And I immediately lay down on– onto his feet.
Alexey Navalny was on a flight to Moscow from Siberia where he had been campaigning against Putin’s party in a local election when he collapsed with no pain but knowing he was dying.
Alexey Navalny: Actually, every cell of your body just are telling you that, “Body, we are done.”
One of the other passengers turned on his phone and captured Navalny moaning in anguish.
The pilot made an emergency landing in Omsk. Where medics, thinking Navalny must be a drug addict, administered the usual treatment for an overdose and rushed him to a local hospital where they said he wasn’t poisoned but wouldn’t let him leave for days.
Alexey Navalny: Well, it was a big fight. They thought that after 48 hours, this poison would be untraceable. And they just keep me there until this 48 hours will be gone.
Navalny is under constant surveillance. His wife, Yulia, says government agents were at the hospital controlling access to her husband and she believes calling the shots. At the time, Navalny was in a coma, unaware that Yulia was waging a public campaign to encourage western diplomatic pressure.