U.S.: Russia could face ‘consequences’ over treatment of jailed dissident Navalny

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The Biden administration is weighing its responses amid reports of the deteriorating condition of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is in the third week of a hunger strike to protest his treatment by the government of President Vladimir Putin.

Allies of Mr. Navalny, one of Mr. Putin’s most effective critics and the target of a poisoning attempt last year as he campaigned against the Kremlin, are calling for major street protests Wednesday to highlight Mr. Navalny’s lack of adequate health care and the government’s repression of his movement. The protest would come on the same day as Mr. Putin’s planned State of the Nation address.

Mr. Navalny has been on a hunger strike since the beginning of the month to protest what he says is the refusal of prison officials to address his ailments, which apparently are tied to his near-fatal poisoning. Supporters say the 44-year-old Mr. Navalny faces kidney failure soon if he is not properly treated.

President Biden on Saturday called the dissident’s plight “totally unfair and totally inappropriate,” and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that Washington is monitoring the situation closely and prepared to act if Mr. Navalny dies.

“We have communicated to the Russian government that what happens to Mr. Navalny in their custody is their responsibility and they will be held accountable by the international community,” Mr. Sullivan said, while declining to “telegraph” what specific measures the U.S. and its allies might take.

The governments of France and Germany also issued public protests Sunday over the treatment of Mr. Navalny, whose condition has reportedly been deteriorating rapidly.

“Our patient can die any minute,” cardiologist Yaroslav Ashikhmin told Russian reporters over the weekend.

In an interview aired Sunday on the BBC, Russian Ambassador to Britain Andrei Kelin appeared to put some of the blame for the crisis on the prisoner himself.

“Of course he will not be allowed to die in prison,” Mr. Kelin said, “but I can say that Mr Navalny behaves like a hooligan absolutely in trying to violate every rule that has been established.”

Mr. Navalny could see his 2 1/2-year sentence for fraud reduced substantially if “he would behave normally,” Mr. Kelin said.

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