Just four days after he was arrested for unclear reasons by Russian government authorities, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most outspoken critics, opposition leader Alex Navalny, has suddenly fallen ill while in prison. Authorities initially described the incident as an “allergic reaction” causing “severe facial swelling and red rashes on the skin,” according to a report by Radio Free Europe.
Navalny was transported to a nearby hospital where he is receiving medical attention, according to a Twitter post by Navalny’s press secretary, Kira Yarmysh. However, doctors who examined the Putin opponent were skeptical of the initial claim of an “allergy” causing Navalny’s sudden ailment.
When Navlany’s personal doctor, Anastasia Vasilyeva, visited him in the hospital and examined him, she said that she could not rule out the possibility that he had been poisoned, according to a Sky News report.
“We cannot rule out that toxic damage to the skin and mucous membranes by an unknown chemical substance was inflicted with the help of a ‘third party.'” Vasilyeva wrote on her Facebook page after examining Navalny. She also alleged that Navalny’s care had been taken over by the “chief doctor” for Putin’s United Russia party and that she and other doctors who had treated Navalny in the past were barred from attending to him.
Russian anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny detained in Moscow days before rally demanding opposition candidates be allowed to run in local elections. (Instagram) pic.twitter.com/wEaWBEAmU8
— BBC Monitoring (@BBCMonitoring) July 24, 2019
According to Yarmish, via Twitter, police initially attempted to prevent Navalny from being taken to the hospital by ambulance and did now allow him a phone call when he was finally taken out of prison for medical care.
Navalny was arrested apparently because he had called for an unauthorized street protest against Moscow’s ban on opposition party candidates from running in upcoming Moscow City Council elections. A large-scale protest took place on Saturday anyway, outside of Moscow City Hall, resulting in arrests by Moscow police of at least 1,600 demonstrators, according to a report by The Daily Beast.
The Moscow City Council is dominated by Putin’s United Russia party but all of the seats on the council come up for reelection this year, according to National Public Radio.
According to NPR Moscow correspondent Lucian Kim, posting on Twitter, the reason for the crackdown on protests and the ban against opposition politicians contending for coot council seats is that “allowing even a few opposition politicians into Moscow city council would grant them legitimacy and exposure. And that could be a slippery slope to further erosion of Kremlin power.”