Russia is carrying out a “slow-motion assassination” of Alexei Navalny and the Kremlin’s past treatment of dissidents shows he is in grave danger, a leading critic of Vladimir Putin has told Euronews.
Financier Bill Browder has campaigned against human rights abuses in Russia for more than a decade since his friend and lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, died in detention in a Moscow prison.
Navalny, 44, is in a prison hospital after going on hunger strike in protest at his treatment by the Russian authorities. His lawyer has said doctors have found him to be suffering from two spinal hernias and is losing feeling in his hands.
Browder says Navalny is now in the hands of the same authorities who tried to kill him last year. The opposition leader blames the Kremlin for his nerve-agent poisoning, a claim Moscow denies.
“It’s hard to imagine that Putin can afford to let him live,” Browder told Euronews, adding that Magnitsky had been “slowly tortured to death”.
“I’ve seen first hand how they treat enemies of the state in custody.”
“The parallels are eerie. Navalny is being horribly mistreated,” he said. “They withhold medical treatment, and God knows what else they might be doing to him in custody. The trajectory looks exactly the same as Magnitsky.”
Putin’s fiercest domestic critic was jailed in February for two and a half years following his return from Germany, where he had spent months recovering from a nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin.
The sentence stems from a 2014 embezzlement conviction that Navalny has rejected as fabricated — and which the European Сourt of Human Rights has ruled to be unlawful.
The West and the EU should adopt a tougher approach to Russia over abuses, Browder added. He called for more targeted Magnitsky sanctions against oligarchs whose money helps maintain Putin’s regime.
Watch the interview with Bill Browder in the video player, above.