Russian security agencies on Tuesday beefed up security at the prison holding Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny whose supporters prepare to stage a protest outside the facility to demand that authorities give him proper medical care.
The prominent face of opposition in Russia last week embarked on a hunger strike, lamenting the refusal of prison authorities to treat him properly for acute back and leg pain.
This comes after the Russian prison services a few weeks ago claimed that Navalny was healthy.
But the pro-Kremlin Izvestia newspaper later cited the state prison service saying that Navalny had been moved to a sick bay and tested for the coronavirus.
A group of his allies said they would protest at the prison in the town of Pokrov 100 km (60 miles) east of Moscow from Tuesday unless he saw a doctor of his choice and was given what they regarded as proper medicine.
To stall this, police officers have surrounded the prion’s perimeter. One was seen with a police dog, set up a makeshift checkpoint in front of the prison gate and used a metal barrier to block the road 100 metres from it.
They closed the parking lot to all but prison staff and checked the IDs of reporters and prison workers.
“It is now under a special (security) regime,” a police woman told Reuters.
Antonina Romanova, a Navalny supporter, said she had come to show solidarity.
“I believe he is innocent. I’m fully on his side,” she said. “It happens that for some reason the people who can sort things out in the country end up in jail,” she said.
The Kremlin critic was sentenced in February for almost three years by a court that ruled he had broken the terms of parole in an embezzlement case dating back to 2014, which Navalny argues is politically motivated over what he called President Vladimir Putin’s hatred and fear of him.