Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny announced on his Instagram account that he was ending his month-long hunger strike after Russian President Vladimir Putin allowed two independent physicians to examine him.
His own physicians told him he was near death and begged him to end the hunger strike in a letter posted online. Navalny acknowledged their advice in his social media post.
“Doctors, whom I fully trust, published a statement yesterday stating that you and I had achieved enough for me to end the hunger strike. And I will say frankly — their words that the tests show that ‘in a minimum time there will be no one to treat…’ seem to me worthy of attention.”
Navalny had been demanding his own physicians be allowed to examine him.
The Kremlin critic added that while he is ending his hunger strike, he still demands to see a specialist physician because he is “losing sensitivity” in parts of his arm and legs and wants to understand “what it is and how to treat it.” CNN is unable to independently verify the state of Navalny’s health.
In an Instagram post shared by his team on Tuesday, he joked about his current condition, saying he looked like “a walking skeleton” who could be used to scare children who refused to eat.
“If you were to see me now, you would have a laugh. A walking skeleton, staggering around the cell,” Navalny said.
It’s possible that Navalny’s numbness may be a residual effect of the Novichok nerve agent he was exposed to last year. After being near death, Navalny was allowed to fly to Germany where they slowly nursed him back to health. He was on parole at the time and when he violated the terms of his release, the government sentenced him to a prison term.
Novichok is the preferred method of assassination for Putin critics so there is little doubt as to who was responsible.
But why would Putin relent and grant a visit from two independent doctors? The Russian president also ordered the pullback of Kremlin forces from the Ukraine border at the same time.
The concentration of Russian troops amid increasing violations of a cease-fire in the conflict in eastern Ukraine raised concerns in the West, which urged the Kremlin to pull its forces back.
Moscow rejected the Ukrainian and Western concerns, arguing that it is free to deploy its forces anywhere on Russian territory. But the Kremlin also sternly warned Ukrainian authorities against trying to use force to retake control of the rebel east, saying it could intervene to protect civilians there.
Putin wasn’t trying to do Biden any favors. He issued a warning to the West not to “cross red lines” which would be met with an “asymmetrical, rapid and harsh” response.
Putin believes he can intimidate the American president into accepting Russia’s annexation of more Ukrainian territory without a fight. He’s probably right. President Joe Biden and most Americans don’t believe Ukraine is worth going to war over.
But at some point, Putin’s appetite for land and power may cross our own red line. Slapping more sanctions on Russia is about all we can do at this point but Putin would be wrong to expect that will continue indefinitely.