Supporters of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny say he may be being poisoned in prison

Alexei Navalny  (REUTERS)
Alexei Navalny (REUTERS)

Russian dissident politician Alexei Navalny may have been poisoned according to his spokeswoman who says he is ill in jail with a mystery ailment.

She said Mr Navalny has lost 8kg weight in just over a fortnight and an ambulance was called for him at the maximum security penal colony about 115 miles east of Moscow where he is being held.

The spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, said an unknown stomach complaint flared up on Friday and prison doctors had treated him in the past by injecting him with medicine which they had refused to identify.

Writing on Twitter, she 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,” she said.

When asked about claims that Navalny might be being slowly poisoned, the Kremlin said it was not following the state of his health and it was a matter for the federal penitentiary service.

The penitentiary service, which has in the past denied allegations its employees have mistreated Navalny and has said he has always been afforded medical treatment when needed, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Reuters news agency.

Alexei Navalny seen via video link (AP)
Alexei Navalny seen via video link (AP)

Navalny, who is serving combined sentences of 11-and-a-half years for fraud and contempt of court on charges he says were trumped up to silence him, said via Twitter on Tuesday that he had been moved back into solitary confinement and forced to endure “extremely hellish” conditions.

Yarmysh said he had suffered similar stomach pain in January after being treated with antibiotics for a virus and had again lost a lot of weight.

Navalny is a former lawyer who rose to prominence more than a decade ago by lampooning President Vladimir Putin’s elite and voicing allegations of corruption on a vast scale.

His supporters cast him as a Russian version of South Africa’s Nelson Mandela who will one day be freed from jail to lead the country.

Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny (AP)
Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny (AP)

Conversely, Russian authorities view him and his supporters as extremists with links to the U.S. CIA intelligence agency intent on trying to destabilise Russia. They have outlawed his movement, forcing many of his followers to flee abroad.

In 2020, he survived an apparent attempt to poison him during a flight in Siberia, with what Western laboratory tests determined was a nerve agent. Navalny accused the Russian state of trying to kill him, something it denied.

He was treated for that poisoning in Germany but voluntarily returned to Russia in 2021, where he was arrested on arrival and jailed.

Yarmysh said medicine sent to Navalny‘s prison by his mother was not collected by prison officials from the post office and was returned.

“Abusing Alexei’s health is a regular practice of (prison) colony number six. All we can do right now (to help him) is to talk about Alexei everywhere,” said Yarmysh.