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Jailed Kremlin critic Navalny has two herniated disks, loss of feeling in his hands, lawyers say

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MOSCOW — Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has two herniated disks and has started to lose feeling in his hands, his attorneys said Wednesday, after they visited him in the penal colony where Navalny and his supporters say he is being denied proper medical care.

Olga Mikhailova, one of the attorneys, told the independent Dozhd TV that Navalny's high fever has subsided since he was moved to the prison sick ward Monday with symptoms of a respiratory illness. He still has a cough, she said. Earlier Monday, Navalny said in an Instagram post that three inmates in his ward were diagnosed with tuberculosis.

Navalny remains in the prison's medical unit and his temperature is being monitored, his other attorney, Vadim Kobzev, said on Twitter.

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Navalny, 44, declared a hunger strike last week, demanding access to a doctor for severe back pain and leg numbness. He had an MRI scan on March 24, and prison authorities told the Interfax news agency the next day that his condition was deemed "satisfactory and stable."

On Wednesday, Navalny relayed the result of that MRI scan to his attorneys during their visit: two herniated disks and a bulging disk. Mikhailova said the prison paramedic prescribed diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory drug, as well as nicotinic acid, which have not been used "in medicine for 30 years."

Navalny has refused that treatment, she said.

"Alexei himself was not given the scan, he also hadn't seen the medical report, but they allowed him to write down the diagnosis from their words," Mikhailova told Dozhd. "One of the hernias is quite difficult to treat and is not sufficiently described in the diagnosis. Our neurologist gave us a conclusion that the treatment that he was prescribed in the colony was ineffective and could lead to a worsening of his condition."

Kobzev said on Twitter that Navalny is able to walk but feels pain when doing so.

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"A concerning factor is that the disease is obviously progressing in terms of loss of sensitivity in his legs and hands," the lawyer said, adding that Navalny has been losing one kilogram per day since going on his hunger strike. Navalny has lost roughly 30 pounds in three weeks, according to Mikhailova.

Navalny survived poisoning from a nerve agent in August in what he has said was an assassination attempt ordered by President Vladimir Putin. After recovering in Germany for five months, Navalny was jailed immediately upon returning to Russia in January.

He was later sentenced to 2½ years in prison for parole violations related to a 2014 fraud case, partly because he failed to report to authorities while under treatment in Germany.

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On Tuesday, Anastasia Vasilyeva, head of the Navalny-affiliated Alliance of Doctors, went to the penal colony in Pokrov, about 60 miles east of Moscow, demanding to examine Navalny. She was later detained by authorities.

"As I understand it, they are scared to have a skilled doctor come there, someone who understands how these diseases should be treated," Mikhailova said Wednesday. "They are likely scared that their terrible treatment has led to the deterioration in his health, and that it will come to light."

Mary Ilyushina contributed to this report.

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