Allies of Alexei Navalny’s have been detained by Russian police and his offices raided, as his supporters plan rallies to protest his ailing health, according to a report.
Navalny, 44, was transferred to a prison hospital this week after beginning a hunger strike on March 31 to demand better health care, and supporters fear he may be near death.
He is being held in a one-person cell in a maximum-security prison hospital and has received no treatment other than a glucose drip, said his lawyer, Vadim Kobzez.
Russian police swooped in to detain Navalny spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh, who is already under house arrest, and top aide Lyubov Sobol in Moscow hours before Russian President Vladimir Putin was scheduled to give his annual state-of-the-nation speech Wednesday.
The authorities also rounded up six of Navalny’s supporters on different charges across Russia and police carried out raids on Navalny’s regional offices in Krasnodar and Kurgan.
State prosecutors have been trying to ban Navalny’s regional groups, claiming they are “extremist” and accusing them of coordinating with foreign powers.
His supporters planned protests in 165 cities on Wednesday.
But Kremlin officials have said the demonstrations are illegal and vowed to crack down and arrest anybody who takes to the streets.
In St. Petersburg, the State University of Aerospace Instrumentation told students that participation in unauthorized demonstrations would result in them being expelled.
The mayor’s office in Moscow, where Putin addressed the two chambers of parliament, said it couldn’t authorize the protests because of coronavirus restrictions.
Yarmysh was grabbed by police near her apartment building when she went out for the one hour she is allowed to leave under the conditions of her house arrest.
Police detained Sobol while she rode in a taxi in Moscow.
Navalny was arrested in January when he returned to Russia after recovering from nerve agent poisoning in Germany that he blames on the Kremlin.
He was then convicted to 2½ years in prison on a 2014 embezzlement charge that Navalny claims Russian authorities manufactured.
With Post wires