Navalny went on hunger strike: how the authorities scoff at hungry prisoners - ForumDaily
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Navalny went on a hunger strike: how the authorities mock the starving prisoners

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is in the colony, announced the head because a doctor was not allowed to see him. How effective such hunger strikes are, the newspaper said. with the BBC.

Photo: Shutterstock

Navalny notified the head of the colony about his decision.

“Despite acute progressive pain, first in my back, then in my right leg, and now with numbness in part of my left leg, I never received medical help,” Navalny wrote.

The department of the Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) noted that the prisoner receives all the necessary assistance in accordance with his current medical indications.

Nadezhda Savchenko: "We started to fry potatoes under my camera"

In June 2014, a Ukrainian soldier became a prisoner of war in Russia and was sentenced to 22 years in prison. Later, as a result of an exchange of prisoners, she returned to Kiev.

While in a Russian prison, Savchenko went on an indefinite hunger strike.

“It was 83 days of continuous hunger strike, then there was a break, another 10 days of hunger strike on the water, and then there were six days of dry hunger strike. The most difficult, of course, was this long hunger strike of 83 days. It started, in principle, the same way as with Navalny: the doctor was not allowed to see me, I did not have a window in my cell, it was autumn-winter, I was freezing, they did not install a window for me, and I began to lose my hearing, my ear became inflamed . They didn’t call the doctor because there was no ENT in the penitentiary,” Savchenko said. “I went on a hunger strike, the ENT specialist came and my ear was treated. It was called a hunger strike “against the regime” - what Navalny is doing now. This is when you rebel against the fact that something is not happening in a penitentiary institution or there is a violation of human rights, something is violated, conditions are not respected, and so on.”

But even after that, Savchenko continued her hunger strike.

“And then I started fasting not “for the regime”, but “for the system” - this is a different order of hunger strike. I announced this in court. She said that Russia has no right to judge me, since we are at war with Russia, I am a citizen of Ukraine, and I was kidnapped to Russia, I did not kill journalists. Therefore, either I should be tried by a military tribunal, and they will admit that we are at war, or I should be charged with an ordinary criminal case, but I have never been involved in a criminal case,” adds the Ukrainian woman.

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She notes that for Navalny, everything depends on how he will behave further and what his health is.

“When there is a hunger strike against the system, it is already a political hunger strike. This has happened more than once in world history; political prisoners have been constantly going on hunger strikes since ancient times,” says Savchenko. — For Navalny, everything depends on how he will behave next. Now he has gone on a hunger strike “against the regime.” They really should allow a doctor to see him, provide him with medical care, and he can lift this hunger strike. Usually, people fast for up to 10 days during the regime. If he goes on a hunger strike “against the system,” then we need to look at what his health is, how long he can endure, what goals he will set.”

“Many prisoners go on hunger strike with the desire to survive, win, or at least hold out to show resistance. When I went on a hunger strike in Russia and kept it for 83 days, I did not expect to survive,” Savchenko notes. — A hunger strike “for the regime” is considered more or less ordinary - this is when people go on hunger strike for up to ten days and then break. These are riots for non-political prisoners; every prisoner can do this. When political prisoners go on hunger strike, it has always earned respect from other prisoners, because they see how long a person can endure.”

Savchenko says that the attitude has really changed, everyone began to wonder at her willpower, but at the same time to check.

“At first they walked around and joked that if I ate some chocolates, I wouldn’t be able to stand it for long. But when on the 40th day the guards, the so-called guards, came to see me, they said: “Is she still starving? How can she do this?” They started frying potatoes under my cell, opening the feeder to whet my appetite with the smells. This is considered torture, but for me it was not really that scary. If I didn’t eat enough, I could at least breathe,” Savchenko jokes.

“For the administration, a hunger strike by any prisoner is always an extraordinary situation, because they need to at least write some reports to the top. But when people fast for up to ten days and, in principle, everyone understands that this will not last long, this is a standard situation,” says Savchenko.

Mustafa Dzhemilev: "They open their mouth with a mouth gag, sometimes they break their teeth, and they inject nutrient fluid through a hose"

Mustafa Dzhemilev, a Soviet dissident and defender of the rights of Crimean Tatars, was force-fed for 10 months in prison after starting a hunger strike in 1975.

“There are rumors that a person who goes on a hunger strike gets used to it and no longer feels it. This is wrong, you feel hungry all the time. Now in Russia the attitude towards starving prisoners is a little different. In the USSR, regardless of your wishes, doctors came on the seventh, eighth, ninth day, and if they saw a threat of death, they made a decision on force feeding,” says Dzhemilev. “This means: a guard comes, holds your arms and legs, opens your mouth with a mouth opener, sometimes breaks your teeth, and through a hose they inject a nutritious liquid, a certain amount of calories, which should support your life for a day or two. And so every day or every other day. When they fast for a very long time, this is not enough, then they give them more glucose injections.”

“Now it seems they must obtain consent for force-feeding. But if there is a threat of death, then they resort to this - just like the Soviet government, the Russian government is not interested in a prisoner dying in dungeons,” says a former prisoner.

“There were frequent hunger strikes in prisons and camps, mostly domestic ones. They don’t take me to the bathhouse, the guards treat me rudely, there is chaos, they don’t give me letters or visits, the temperature in the cell is low. Such hunger strikes ended with some concessions to the administration,” says Dzhemilev. — Political hunger strikes, as a rule, are not designed to ensure that demands are met. Those who are hungry understand this. They are simply contributing to the common good.”

“I calculated everything and before the hunger strike I ensured the delivery of a very long letter to Andrei Sakharov - about the provocations that were arranged for me. My main task was to ensure that the topic of Crimea, the topic of deportations of the Crimean Tatars and demands for the return of their historical homeland, the topic of human rights violations in the Soviet Union were made public,” continues the former prisoner. - In this sense, I achieved my goal - many foreign radio stations began broadcasting with a mention that it was the 50th, 60th or 70th day of Mustafa Dzhemilev’s hunger strike. At the same time, they talked about why this man was starving and what he required. The topic of Crimea, the Crimean Tatar people in 1975-1976, just came out.”

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“I was in such a mood: I knew that people were watching with bated breath what would happen to me. I knew that if I couldn’t stand it and broke the hunger strike, they would breathe a sigh of relief - after all, he was still alive.

But the feeling that I couldn’t stand it was unacceptable for me, and I was determined to go to the end. When they persuaded me, they gave me arguments why I should stop the hunger strike, the doctors said that my body was failing, they strengthened me in going to the end - if I’m not a completely full-fledged person, then why live,” sums up Dzhemilev.

Sergei Udaltsov: “In its pure form, a month and a half is the deadline”

The coordinator of the Left Front, Sergei Udaltsov, went on hunger strikes several times.

“I probably went on hunger strikes about a dozen times in various formats - during administrative arrests, criminal prosecution in the Bolotnaya case. The maximum duration was a month [July-August 2014], then for medical reasons I had to stop,” says Udaltsov. “Then the question of force feeding arose. My health condition deteriorated greatly, I considered my task completed, so I stopped.”

“How effective this method is is for everyone to decide for themselves. It all depends on what the person’s requirements are. If they are local - to ease conditions of detention, stop nagging, violation of rights, improve nutrition or medical care, then this is a fairly effective way, explains Sergei. “When I was in a colony in the Tambov region, with such a hunger strike I at least achieved that they stopped persecuting me for various small violations and placing me in a punishment cell. Of course, I wasn’t released, but my existence became a little easier.”

“Navalny has just such a case of “local demands.” If the demands are more global, of a political nature, for example, to release someone, then it is difficult to count on a quick response on such issues,” comments Udaltsov.

Moreover, the very process of the hunger strike must be officially approved.

“You officially report your hunger strike - you write a statement addressed to the head of the colony and the pre-trial detention center, in which you explain why you are refusing food, and besides, you do it voluntarily. They must send the papers to the prosecutor's office, and the prosecutor's office then, as a rule, conducts an inspection. Therefore, a hunger strike is not a very pleasant situation for the administration,” says Udaltsov.

“There are cases, of course, when they try to hide the fact of a hunger strike - it all depends on how persistent the person is and whether there is resonance. If there is outside support, it is impossible to hide. Then there will be even more stress for the administration,” says Sergei. — Increased attention to them, of course, creates inconvenience. When you are starving and no one knows about it, there are more opportunities for arbitrariness, persuasion, and pressure. Most often this happens, sometimes even other prisoners are involved in this: they can exert moral and even physical pressure.”

“Hunger strike as a form of political expression is the right of every person. Even temporarily giving up food is a serious decision. Some won’t eat for two or three days and climb the wall. A hunger strike can have different goals - a political message, local demands - and it is absolutely not necessary to die,” explains Udaltsov.

Alexander Shestun: "The first five days are very difficult, and then, on the contrary, there is some kind of ease"

The former head of the Serpukhov district of the Moscow region, Alexander Shestun, was sentenced to 15 years in prison. During his stay in prison, he had already gone on hunger strike several times - his wife Yulia Shestun told how this happened.

“Alexander has already starved five times. This lasted a maximum of 223 days and ended in December 2019 with force feeding,” says Shestun’s wife. “Before that, both he and I were repeatedly suggested that he start taking nutritional mixtures. But he did not take any nutritional mixtures. In the summer of that year, Alexander was examined in the prison hospital - I suspect that they mixed something into his IV under the guise of medicine, by deception.”

“But by the end of these 223 days, he had already gone on a dry hunger strike, and his internal organs began to fail. They began to force feed him. At that time he weighed 54 kg, he was pumped up to 62 kg. He did not end his hunger strike, and a week later the feeding was repeated,” Yulia continues the story.

“A complaint was filed with the European Court of Human Rights - and after the second force feeding, the court sent a petition that Alexander must end his hunger strike, otherwise his complaint will not be considered. After that, it was useless to starve,” she concluded.

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Alexander himself said that the first five days are very difficult, and then, on the contrary, some kind of ease appears, and when the condition is extremely serious, constant weakness overcomes.

“It all depends on the person who went on hunger strike. If he or she is accompanied by the media, if lawyers go around, if they talk about it in the media, then, of course, this makes the leadership of the colony nervous. And there are prisoners that no one knows about,” explains Yulia.

Victor Filinkov: "Come on, you will stop and you won't go hungry here"

Viktor Filinkov is serving a 7-year sentence for participating in the Network community banned in Russia. The journalist and human rights activist Tatyana Likhanova spoke about his hunger strike; she is in correspondence with Filinkov.

“Vitya went on a hunger strike on October 30, 2019, on the Day of Remembrance of Victims of Political Repression, in support of political prisoners - without fundamentally putting forward personal demands for himself. He wrote about this in an open letter, which he handed over to a rally in support of political prisoners,” says the journalist. “Although at that time he himself had serious health problems, they were not solved in any way in the pre-trial detention center, and he did not receive adequate medical care.”

“Just when he went on a hunger strike, he became very ill. There was a suspicion of jaundice - the whites of his eyes turned yellow. Victor was taken to the prison hospital. There they at least began to examine him and said: “Let’s stop it already and you won’t starve here.” And in the hospital he stopped his hunger strike,” Tatyana said.

Konstantin Tsybko: "A sharp deterioration occurs closer to 30 days of hunger strike"

Former member of the Federation Council Konstantin Tsybko was convicted in 2017 on charges of accepting bribes. He did not admit his guilt, he claimed that the case was fabricated for political reasons. He is in a strict regime colony, where he was repeatedly punished and held several hunger strikes in protest.

“I went on hunger strikes on average at least three times a year - starting in the fall of 2018. My hunger strikes were recognized as justified during prosecutorial checks,” Konstantin began his story. — The longest hunger strike lasted 21 days. It was due to the fact that I was illegally, in order to exert psychological pressure, transferred to strict conditions of serving my sentence because, upon entering a room where eight employees were, I said “hello” once to all the employees at once. The jailers in the room thought that this was not enough and I had to say “hello” eight times.”

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“I was recognized as a persistent offender and transferred to strict conditions of serving my sentence, which provide for much more cruel conditions in the colony,” he continued. — I did not commit any violations of internal regulations. The prosecutor’s office conducted a thorough investigation and established the absolute illegality of the actions, the absence of any violations of the rules on my part, and made a proposal to immediately cancel the illegal penalty and transfer me to strict conditions.”

But even the decree of the prosecutor's office did not stop the administration of the prison.

“One of the managers openly told me that they don’t care about the opinion of the prosecutor’s office, and that I would be severely and demonstrably punished for complaining. 10 days later, for another ridiculous reason, I was again put in a punishment cell, I again went on a hunger strike and wrote a complaint about these actions to the prosecutor’s office. An inspection by the prosecutor’s office again revealed gross violations of the law by the administration,” Tsybko said.

“On average, after 10-14 days, I managed to get a meeting with the prosecutor or human rights ombudsman in the region,” shares Konstantin. — From my own experience, I can say that a sharp deterioration in the condition occurs closer to 30 days of the hunger strike. My condition during the hunger strike did not deteriorate to the level required for such procedures. I lost the most weight during a 21-day hunger strike, when my weight, at 182 inches tall, dropped from 75 kg to 59 kg.

There are two types of hunger strikes - dry, when a person refuses both food and water, and there is a wet hunger strike, when the starving person drinks only water.”

But, according to the prisoner, a dry hunger strike is very dangerous and almost fatal.

“A hunger strike is an extremely rare way to defend one’s rights. It is resorted to mostly by educated and actually abused people. Many people going on hunger strike are subject to pressure not only from the administration, but also from prisoners close to the administration,” concluded Konstantin.

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