More than 200 Russian doctors on Tuesday signed a petition to President Vladimir V. Putin imploring him to “stop abusing” Aleksei A. Navalny, Russia’s most prominent opposition politician, who is currently in jail serving much of his sentence in a punishment cell.
In the letter, doctors from across Russia said they cannot stand aside and watch how Mr. Navalny’s health is being “deliberately harmed.”
“The detention conditions and the appearance of Aleksei Navalny make us greatly concerned for his life and health,” said the letter, published by Aleksei Polupan, an anesthesiologist, and Aleksandr Vanyukov, a surgeon. “From the medical point of view it is clear that Aleksei is not receiving sufficient medical help.”
The letter, signed by doctors with their full names, was a rare example of public criticism of the Kremlin in post-invasion Russia, where the government has been tightening the screws on free speech. Since the start of the war in Ukraine, many professionals have been fired from their jobs for speaking out, or have faced criminal or administrative charges.
Mr. Navalny became Russia’s most prominent opposition leader by exposing high-level corruption and by challenging President Vladimir V. Putin and his party, United Russia. In September 2020, Mr. Navalny was poisoned in Germany with a military grade nerve agent, and American intelligence agencies have concluded that Russian security police agents were behind his attempted murder, White House officials have said.
Mr. Navalny returned to Russia in January 2021 after recovering in a Berlin hospital and was promptly arrested. Weeks later, he was sentenced to two and half years in prison, ostensibly for violating the terms of his earlier parole while being in Germany. He was then handed a new nine-year sentence in March, in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, after prosecutors accused him of embezzling donations from his supporters.
At the end of December, Mr. Navalny accused the prison authorities of using his health as a tool to pressure him.
On Monday, Mr. Navalny said in a series of posts on Twitter that just before New Year’s Eve prison authorities transferred him to a punishment cell because he had washed his face in the morning ahead of the official prison schedule. It was Mr. Navalny’s tenth time in that cell in 2022, he said.
Mr. Navalny also said that he has had to share a cell with an inmate who had been deliberately placed in the prison’s medical ward “full of flu patients.” Shortly after that, Mr. Navalny became ill with fever, chills and coughing, his lawyer, Vadim Kobzev, said in a post on Twitter, adding that his legal team was trying to get him medications.