Russian Prisons Chief Says Navalny 'Recovered, More Or Less,' After Hunger Strike

The head of Russia's prison service says jailed Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny has "recovered, more or less," following his 24-day hunger strike last month.

Navalny, President Vladimir Putin's fiercest domestic critic, launched the hunger strike demanding he be examined by his own doctor amid what his supporters have described as a "deliberate campaign" by prison officials to undermine his health, which was considered fragile as he was still recovering from a poison attack last year.

He ended the strike on April 23.

On May 20, the state news agency TASS quoted the head of Russia's Federal Penitentiary Service, Aleksandr Kalashnikov, as saying that Navalny "has recovered, more or less."

Navalny is serving a prison sentence on embezzlement charges that he says were trumped up because of his political activity.

The 44-year-old has been in custody since January, when he returned to Russia following weeks of medical treatment in Germany for a nerve-agent poisoning in August that he says was carried out by operatives of the Federal Security Service (FSB) at the behest of Putin.

The Kremlin has denied any role in the poisoning.

Navalny's last public appearance was by video link in court during an appeal hearing at the end of last month, where he appeared thin and said he had started eating a couple spoonfuls of porridge a day.

Kalashnikov told journalists on May 20, "His weight is already up to 82 kilograms, I think," adding that Navalny was "eating normally."

Neither Navalny's spokespersons nor his lawyers were immediately available to comment on Kalashnikov's comments. Navalny himself has not made a public statement since early this month.

His allies have said that Navalny weighed 93 kilograms when he arrived in prison in February. His wife, Yulia, said in mid-April that his weight was down to 76 kilograms.

The update on Navalny's health comes as the Russian government is taking steps to outlaw his movement.

Next month a court will open a hearing on whether to add his network of regional offices and Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) to a list of "extremist" organizations.

On April 18, Russia's lower house of parliament passed legislation in the first reading that would ban members of "extremist" organizations from becoming lawmakers -- a move apparently targeting Navalny supporters.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, and TASS