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Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny says he is ending his hunger strike

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By Euronews
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny stands in a cage in the Babuskinsky District Court in Moscow, Russia, Feb. 20, 2021.
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny stands in a cage in the Babuskinsky District Court in Moscow, Russia, Feb. 20, 2021.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko

Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny announced on Friday that he is putting an end to his hunger strike after more than three weeks.

"I am not withdrawing my request to see the necessary doctor, I am losing sensitivity in parts of my hands and legs (...) Given this evolution and these circumstances, I am beginning to end my hunger strike," he wrote in an Instagram post.

He stressed however that he would continue to demand to see his medical team.

Navalny stopped eating 24 days ago after Russian penitentiary authorities rejected his request to see his personal doctors. The opposition figure had been complaining of severe pain in his back and legs, which his medical team suggested could be symptoms of the nerve agent attack he suffered in August 2020.

His personal doctors sounded the alarm last weekend, warning that he "could die at any minute", prompting his supporters and Western countries to up the pressure on the Kremlin.

Navalny's announcement comes two days after mass protests calling for his release were held across Russia. Authorities warned people to say off the streets, citing coronavirus restrictions, and arrested close allies of the opposition figures hours before the rallies.

More than 1,000 people were arrested.

Navalny, 44, said that he has now been examined twice by a team of doctors, including "civilian" professionals. "The last time was right before the rally. They are doing tests and analyses and giving me the results and conclusions."

He credited the "huge support of good people across the country and around the world" for the "huge progress".

The penitentiary services have affirmed throughout that his medical condition is "satisfactory".

Navalny was arrested in January upon his return to Russia after a five-month stay in a Berlin hospital where he had been recovering from Novichok poisoning. He was then sentenced to two and a half years in jail in February for violating the terms of his probation for an earlier conviction for embezzlement while in Germany.

The European Union, UK and US all warned earlier this week that they held Russia responsible for Navalny's health and that further deterioration could lead to more restrictive measures. All have imposed sanctions on Russia over Navalny's arrest and continued detention.