The United States has warned the Kremlin of possible “consequences” if Putin critic Alexei Navalny dies due to mistreatment. Navalny has been sentenced to three years in prison for an embezzlement conviction and is on a hunger strike, which he is not expected to survive due to his already dire condition caused by a suspected poisoning by Russian agents in 2020.
On Sunday, Navalny supporters called for demonstrations across Russia on April 21 to coincide with President Vladimir Putin’s state of the nation address.
Speaking to CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said that the United States has communicated to the Russian government that “they will be held accountable by the international community.”
“We are looking at a variety of different costs that we would impose, and I’m not going to telegraph that publicly at this point,” he said. “But we have communicated that there will be consequences if Mr. Navalny dies.”
Navalny spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said Saturday that it is only a “matter of days” before Navalny dies, should his hunger strike continue. The dissident is in the third week of his protest in the IK-2 prison camp, located 100 kilometres from Moscow.
His doctor, Anastasia Vasilieva, shared blood test results showing what she said were “critical levels of potassium,” which signifies kidney failure. Vasilieva stated on Twitter that Navalny could die at any time to a severe disruption of his heartbeat, Bloomberg reports.
Navalny began his hunger strike on March 21 to demand healthcare from doctors outside of the Russian prison, due to complaints of acute back and leg pain. On Friday, Navalny’s supporters said that a prison official had warned him that he would be force-fed if he did not end the protest.
President Joe Biden has not remained silent on Navalny’s condition, telling reporters that he considered the situation to be “totally, totally unfair.” According to Bloomberg, Biden pressed Putin in a phone call about the alleged poisoning of the opposition leader, which U.S. intelligence has publicly blamed on Russia’s Federal Security Service.
Over 457,000 people have pledged anonymously to take part in protests calling for Navalny’s release, according to Navalny’s website. His supporters abandoned their goal of collecting half a million signatures to schedule a new protest due to the severity of Navalny’s decline in health.
“Alexey Navalny’s life and the fate of Russia depend on how many people turn out on the streets this Wednesday,” Navalny supporters stated on his blog on Sunday. “We need three days to prepare for the rally so that everyone hears about it.”