MOSCOW — Aleksei A. Navalny, the imprisoned Russian opposition chief, ended a three-week starvation strike on Friday that had embarrassed the Kremlin overseas and incited protests at dwelling.
The 24-day starvation strike, which Mr. Navalny mentioned had left him so skinny he regarded like a “skeleton, swaying, strolling in its cell,” grew to become the newest battle in a yearslong, high-stakes competitors between President Vladimir V. Putin and his most distinguished home political opponent.
Mr. Putin refuses even to talk Mr. Navalny’s title whereas the police and prosecutors harry his political group with arrests and, this month, a transfer to ban it outright. Mr. Navalny is serving a jail sentence of greater than two years for a parole violation of a conviction he says was politically motivated.
However even in jail he managed to confound Mr. Putin with a quandary: both concede to his calls for for medical remedy by his private docs or danger making a martyr.
By the years Mr. Navalny has run a extremely efficient investigative unit that has embarrassed Mr. Putin and discredited his authorities with slickly produced movies exposing corruption on the highest ranks. He routinely refers to Mr. Putin’s United Russia get together as a gang of “crooks and thieves.”
Mr. Navalny has additionally continued to set the agenda for the political opposition forward of parliamentary elections scheduled for the autumn. His group turned out tens of 1000’s of road protesters on Wednesday, stealing among the limelight from Mr. Putin’s annual state of the nation deal with.
Mr. Navalny mentioned he halted his starvation strike on the recommendation of his docs and since his calls for had been partially met.
Mr. Navalny blamed the Russian authorities, saying that Novichok, a uncommon nerve agent solely manufactured in Russia and the Soviet Union earlier than it broke up, had been positioned in his underwear in a resort room final August. On the time, he was organizing his political group for native elections. The Kremlin denied any function within the poisoning.
Mr. Navalny was medically evacuated to Germany in a coma, recovered and returned to Russia in January, the place he was arrested on the airport.
In jail, he reported again ache and numbness in his legs and arms. Earlier this month, exams confirmed indicators of doable kidney failure that would result in a deadly irregularity in Mr. Navalny’s heartbeat, his docs mentioned.
Jail authorities by no means allowed entry for Mr. Navalny’s private physician. They did transfer him from his cell, first to a jail hospital then a civilian hospital, and this week allowed specialists to look at him.
“Docs whom I totally belief made an announcement that now we have achieved sufficient for me to cease my quick,” Mr. Navalny mentioned in an announcement posted on his Instagram account on Friday. He mentioned docs had additionally suggested him that if he continued the starvation strike, “there will probably be no person left to deal with.”
Mr. Navalny mentioned he additionally broke his quick as a result of some supporters had introduced starvation strikes in solidarity with him, and he didn’t wish to danger their well being.
Mr. Navalny’s private docs issued a assertion Thursday outlining the well being care jail authorities had allowed after his switch to a civilian hospital, together with examinations by impartial neurologists. The docs mentioned they’d additionally obtained entry to his check outcomes, partially fulfilling the calls for of the starvation strike.
The assertion signed by Mr. Navalny’s private physician, Anastasia Vasilyeva, and 4 specialists mentioned they’d not lifted their request to look at Mr. Navalny in particular person. However sufficient had been completed, they mentioned, to justify halting the strike.
The prolonged starvation strike, nevertheless dangerous for Mr. Navalny personally, has stored his case on the agenda of Western governments regardless of a Russian navy buildup on the border with Ukraine.
The US nationwide safety adviser, Jake Sullivan, this month mentioned that the Russian authorities would face “penalties if Mr. Navalny dies.” International Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian of France additionally expressed concern and put the Russian authorities on discover: “There’s a main duty right here for President Putin,” he mentioned.
In home politics, Mr. Navalny’s starvation strike and deteriorating well being prompted road protests on Wednesday in cities throughout Russia.
The protests introduced riot law enforcement officials out in power in Russian cities on a day when Mr. Putin supposed to spotlight in his state of the nation speech a hopeful message of financial progress because the nation emerged from the coronavirus pandemic. By the tip of the day, police had detained almost 1,500 demonstrators nationwide.