A Bitter Pill

Russia Profile

In the hours after anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny was detained at a December 5 rally protesting falsified election results, he continued tweeting cheerful pictures snapped with his cell phone, showing a tight cadre of fellow protesters in the back of a police van and himself penning an official protest of his arrest. Yet in the same detention center from which Navalny will be released today, Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov declared his latest hunger strike, which once again landed him in critical condition in a local hospital over the weekend.

This evening Navalny, along with Solidarnost Youth Coordinator Ilya Yashin and other protesters, will be released 15 days after they were arrested at the first mass rally against alleged election fraud on December 5. For the opposition, the return of one of their most recognizable and popular leaders Navalny will be a welcome boon as they prepare a 50,000-person demonstration on Sakharov Street in downtown Moscow on December 24.

Meanwhile, Udaltsov has not made it to a single protest – in a jailhouse interview with the New Times, he described how he was wrestled into an unmarked police car in early December and has been in prison ever since. He was charged with jaywalking and disobeying police instructions near the Sokol metro station in downtown Moscow on December 4. A local judge handed down a five day sentence for his first crime. Udaltsov declared a “dry” hunger strike, meaning minimal water and no food, but was taken to the hospital in what his wife called a police “convoy” on December 8, when his health took a turn for the worse. When he was finally set to be released from the hospital in order to help plan the December 10 protests that attracted 30,000 people to Bolotnaya Square, police produced an outstanding warrant for his arrest, keeping him in jail up through the 25 of the month.

This is not the first stint that Udaltsov has served for disobeying police orders – indeed, he has been arrested over one hundred times and in the last year he has spent more than 80 days in prison. When police produced the second warrant for his arrest, it was for escaping from another hospital in October, where he was in intensive care after a similar hunger strike.

Despite repeated trips to the hospital, he has continued relying on extreme methods: “I don’t see another way to influence the situation, because I believe that they’ve unleashed such harassment against me, that regardless of my health, they are continuing to persecute me. I feel poorly. Mostly I lie down, I have constant pain in my kidneys,” he told the New Times from prison. “But if I stop the hunger strike now, that will mean that I have given in.”

Deaths in Russian prisons have become an especially hot topic since the death of Firestone-Duncan lawyer Sergei Magnitsky and the efforts of former Hermitage Capital Head William Browder to publicize the case. When Udaltsov once again was rushed off to intensive care this weekend, petitions began to surface calling for his immediate release from prison. “We call on [the government] to remember the rights of people and to end torture and persecution for political beliefs. We demand observance of the Constitution of the Russian Federation,” declared one open letter to Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin distributed via Facebook and Vkontakte.

Andrei Babushkin, the head of the Committee for Civil Rights NGO, said: “Sergei is well known for his years of uncompromising struggle for the wellbeing of Muscovites, for progress, for better living conditions for simple people.” Udaltsov’s extreme methods, his arrests and hunger strikes, “don’t generate any doubt in the validity and legality of the goals of his societal and political actions,” said Babushkin.

While Udaltsov remains in prison, his wife Anastasia continues to act as his proxy, both coordinating Left Front’s PR and publishing updates on her husband’s health. Repeated phone calls to Udaltsova and other Left Front contacts went unanswered, but she did put out a message on social networks early in the day, noting that her husband had been taken out of intensive care and “nothing is life threatening, although it’s already clear that he has a long recovery period him.”

In an earlier interview with the Guardian newspaper, Udaltsova spoke about the strain that her husband’s regular arrests and hunger strikes were putting on both her and her children. “I wish he would start eating, of course,” she said. “It’s hard for me on my own, shouldering all Sergei’s tasks. But we must keep up the fight. It will be a disaster if Putin gets back in the president’s chair.” микрозайм онлайн микрозайм онлайн https://zp-pdl.com/best-payday-loans.php https://zp-pdl.com/online-payday-loans-cash-advances.php онлайн займы

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