Alarm bells went off last week when authorities prevented Navalny’s lawyers Olga Mikhailova and Vadim Kobzev from seeing him in the Pokrov colony. When they finally gained access to their client, they saw a man hardly able to walk, struggling to get off his bed, unable to feel his right leg, and suffering sharp and constant back pain. “Navalny forbade us from making this public, but … we decided to come out into the open,” wrote Kobzev. “They are deliberately turning him into a cripple,” Mikhailova added.
It is difficult to find another description. The prison authorities are not only denying civilian doctors access to Navalny. They are also refusing to accept medicines for back pain — or even a handwritten doctor’s note with exercises. Since he is not being seen by doctors, the diagnosis is unknown — but likely causes include a pinched nerve from being held in cramped paddy wagons and prison cells and the lasting effects of last year’s poisoning. In addition, Navalny’s jailers have labeled him a “flight risk” (this for a man who voluntarily returned to Russia even though he was facing arrest). That means that he is woken up every hour at night by prison guards, in what amounts to torture by sleep deprivation.