Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has ended his hunger strike after medics warned he was on the brink of death, it has been announced.
The 44-year-old, one of Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critics, started refusing food on March 31 in protest over his treatment in prison.
World leaders had warned Russia would face consequences if he died, and protests have erupted across the country in solidarity.
In a message shared on his Instagram page, Navalny said he was aware that others were doing hunger strikes in support, stating: “Friends, my heart is full of love and gratitude for you, but I do not want anyone to experience physical suffering because of me.”
Earlier this week doctors warned he could “die at any moment”.
Navalny last year survived being poisoned with Novichock, pointing the finger of blame at the Kremlin – an allegation supported by US intelligence networks.
Russia is under mounting international pressure, with the US saying it will be “held accountable” if he dies.
The opposition leader said he began his protest after being refused medical treatment in prison, and his representatives said they feared for his life.
Navalny’s doctor, Yaroslav Ashikhmin, this week warned on Facebook: “Our patient could die at any moment.”
He said he and Anastasiya Vasilyeva, head of the Alliance of Doctors union, were refused entry to the prison in Pokrov, where Navalny was being kept.
The opposition leader has since been transferred to hospital after his condition worsened.
A statement on his Instagram account today said his demands had been met.
It said: “With the tremendous support of good people across the country and around the world, we have made tremendous progress.
“Two months ago, they smirked at my requests for medical assistance, they did not give any medicines and did not allow them to be transferred. A month ago, they laughed in my face at phrases like: “Can I find out my diagnosis?” and “Can I see my own medical record?”
“Thank you – now I have been examined twice by a council of civilian doctors.”
US national security adviser Jake Sullivan warned there would be “consequences if Mr Navalny dies”, telling CNN that Russia would be “held accountable by the international community”.
Navalny travelled to Germany last August for treatment after being poisoned by a nerve agent in an attack he blamed on Putin.
The Kremlin has said it has seen no evidence he was poisoned and has denied any Russian role if he was.
He was arrested in January when he returned to Russia and jailed for two-and-a-half years in February for parole violations he said were fabricated.
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