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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 the acute progressive pain, first in the back, then in the right leg, and now with numbness of a part of the left leg, I never received medical assistance,” 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 hardest thing, of course, was this long 83-day hunger strike. It began, in principle, the same as that of 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 put a window on me, and I began to lose my hearing, my ear became inflamed. ... The doctor was not called, because there was no lore in the penitentiary, - said Savchenko. - I went on a hunger strike, ENT came, my ear was treated. This was called a hunger strike "for the regime" - what Navalny is doing now. This is when you rebel against the fact that something is not happening in the penitentiary or there is a violation of human rights, something is violated, the conditions are not respected, and so on. "

But even after that, Savchenko continued her hunger strike.

“And then I began to starve 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 have a 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 admit that we have a war, or an ordinary criminal case should be hanged on me, but I have never been involved in the criminal case, ”adds the Ukrainian.

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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" for the system, "it is already a political hunger strike. This has happened more than once in world history, political prisoners have been on hunger strikes since ancient times, says Savchenko. - With Navalny, everything depends on how he will behave further. Now he is on a hunger strike "for the regime." A doctor should really be allowed to see him, medical assistance should be provided, and he can take off this hunger strike. Usually "on regime" people go hungry for up to 10 days. If he goes on a hunger strike "for the system," then we have to look further what his health is, how long he can withstand, what goals he will set. "

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

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 went and joked that, they say, I will eat up some chocolates, I will not stand it for a long time. But when on the 40th day the escorts, the so-called guards came to me, they said: “Is she still starving? How can she do that? " They began to fry potatoes under my camera, opening the feeder to whet my appetite with smells. It is considered torture, but for me it wasn’t just that scary. If I haven't eaten enough, I have at least breathed enough, ”jokes Savchenko.

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

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 is on a hunger strike gets used to it and no longer feels it. This is not right, hunger is felt all the time. Now in Russia, the attitude towards starving prisoners is slightly different. In the USSR, regardless of your desire, on the seventh, eighth, ninth days, doctors came, and if they saw a threat of death, they made a decision to force-feed, ”says Dzhemilev. - This means: a warden comes, holds hands, legs, opens his mouth with a mouth gag, sometimes breaks his teeth, and through a hose a nutritious liquid is introduced, a certain amount of calories, which should support vital activity for a day or two. And so every day or every other day. When they starve for a very long time, this is not enough, then they also give injections of glucose. "

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

“There were frequent hunger strikes in prisons and camps, mostly for domestic purposes. They are not taken to the bathhouse, the guards are rudely treated, the lawlessness, letters and visits are not given, 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 meet the demands. The starving people understand this. They are just contributing to the common cause. "

“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 being arranged for me. My main task was to make the topic of Crimea, the topic of deportations of Crimean Tatars and demands for the return of their historical homeland, the topic of human rights violations in the Soviet Union public, the former prisoner continues. - In this sense, I have achieved my goal - many foreign radio stations began their programs with a mention of the 50th, 60th or 70th day of Mustafa Dzhemilev's hunger strike. At the same time, they talked about why this person is starving and what he requires. The theme of the Crimea, the Crimean Tatar people in 1975-1976 was just published ”.

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“I was in such a mood: I knew that the people, with bated breath, were watching what would happen to me. I knew that if I could not stand it, took off the hunger strike, then they would breathe a sigh of relief - after all, I would remain alive.

But the feeling that I could not stand it was unacceptable for me, and I was determined to go all the way. When they persuaded me, gave arguments why I should give up the hunger strike, the doctors said that the body refuses, it strengthened me to go all the way - if I’m not quite a full-fledged person, then why live, ”sums up Dzhemilev.

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

“How effective this method is - everyone decides for himself. It all depends on what the person's requirements are. If they are local - to ease the conditions of detention, stop nagging, violation of rights, improve nutrition or medical care, then it is a fairly effective way, - Sergey explains. - When I was in the colony in the Tambov region, with such a hunger strike I achieved at least the fact that they stopped persecuting me with various minor violations, putting me in a punishment cell. Of course, I was not released, but my existence has become a little easier. "

“Navalny has just such a case of“ local requirements ”. 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, ”Udaltsov comments.

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

“You officially inform about the 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 refuse food, besides, you do it voluntarily. They must send the papers to the prosecutor's office, the prosecutor's office then, as a rule, conducts a check. Therefore, a hunger strike is not a very pleasant situation for the administration, ”Udaltsov says.

“There are cases, of course, that they try to hide the fact of the hunger strike - it all depends on how stubborn the person is and whether there is a resonance. If there is outside support, it is impossible to hide. Then the strains for the administration are even more, - says Sergei. - The increased attention to them, of course, creates inconveniences. When you are starving and no one knows about it, there are more opportunities for arbitrariness, persuasion, pressure. Most often this happens, sometimes even other prisoners are attracted to this: they can exert moral and even physical pressure. "

“The hunger strike as a form of political expression is the right of every person. Even a temporary refusal to eat is a serious decision. Some will not eat for two or three days - they climb on the wall. A hunger strike can have different goals - a political message, local demands - and you don't have to die at all, ”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 time in prison, he already went on hunger strike several times - his wife Yulia Shestun told about how this happened.

“Alexander has been on hunger strike five times already. It lasted a maximum of 223 days and ended in December 2019 with force-feeding, says Shestun's wife. - Before that, both him and me were repeatedly offered to start taking nutritional mixtures. But he did not take any nutritional mixtures. In the summer of that year, Alexander was examined at the prison hospital - I suspect that they mixed something into his IV drip under the guise of drugs, deception. "

“But by the end of these 223 days, he had already declared 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 didn’t take off the hunger strike - and a week later the feeding was repeated, ”Yulia continues.

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

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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 media, if lawyers are walking, if they talk about it in the media, then, of course, this makes the administration of the colony nervous. And there are prisoners whom 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 the Victims of Political Repression, in support of political prisoners - in principle, without putting forward personal demands for himself. He wrote about this in an open letter, which he conveyed to the rally in support of political prisoners, - says the journalist. “Although at that time he himself had serious health problems, they were not resolved in any way in the pre-trial detention center, and he did not receive adequate medical assistance.”

“Just when he went on a hunger strike, he felt really bad. There was a suspicion of jaundice - the whites of his eyes turned yellow. Viktor was taken to the prison hospital. There, at least they began to examine him and said: “Let’s stop and you won’t go hungry here.” And he stopped his hunger strike in the hospital, ”Tatiana 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 - since the fall of 2018. My hunger strikes were found justified during the prosecutor's checks, ”Konstantin began his story. - The longest hunger strike lasted 21 days. It was connected with the fact that I was unlawfully, in order to exert psychological pressure, transferred to strict conditions of serving the sentence for the fact that, entering the room where there were eight employees, I once said "hello" to all employees at once. The jailers in the room felt that this was not enough and I had to say hello eight times. "

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“I was found to be a malicious violator and was transferred to strict conditions of serving the sentence, which provide for much more severe conditions in the colony,” he continued. - I did not commit any violations of the internal rules. The prosecutor's office carried out a thorough check and established the absolute illegality of the actions, the absence of any violations of the rules on my part, and made an idea of ​​the immediate cancellation of the illegal collection and transferring me to strict conditions. "

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

“One of the leaders told me openly that they didn’t care about the opinion of the prosecutor’s office, and for my complaint I would be severely and demonstratively punished. Ten days later, on 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. The inspection of 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 the human rights ombudsman in the region,” Konstantin shares. - From my own experience, I can say that a sharp deterioration occurs closer to the 30 days of the hunger strike. During the period of hunger strikes, my condition did not deteriorate to those indicators that are provided for such procedures. I lost most of my weight during my 21-day hunger strike, when my weight dropped from 182 kg to 75 kg at 59.

There are two types of hunger strikes - dry, when a person refuses both food and water, and there is a wet hunger strike, when a 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 protect your rights. Mostly educated and actually abused people resort to it. Many who are on hunger strike are subjected to pressure not only from the administration, but also from the prisoners close to the administration, ”concluded Konstantin.

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