The European Union must pressure Moscow to allow Alexei Navalny to have access to his doctor, allies of the hunger-striking Kremlin critic wrote in a letter sent this week to EU foreign ministers.
Navalny, 44, a prominent opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, announced a hunger strike at the end of March in protest at what he said was the refusal of prison authorities to treat him properly for acute back and leg pain.
Two allies of Navalny, Vladimir Ashurkov and Leonid Volkov, wrote to the 27 EU ministers to urge them to discuss Navalny's health at their next meeting on Monday, according to a copy of the letter seen by Reuters.
"Alexei must immediately be granted his lawful request for a doctor of his choice," said the letter, which was also sent to the parliaments of EU member states.
The letter raised similar health concerns to those voiced on Tuesday by Navalny's wife, who said after visiting him in prison that he was having difficulty speaking and had lost more weight.
"Alexei's health is steadily deteriorating," the letter said, citing an unofficial copy of test results that showed spinal problems.
"He now feels numbness not only in his both legs, but also in his left hand, along with pain in his back and muscular impairment," the letter said.
"Alexei is also suffering from a fever and a heavy cough. Several inmates in his penal colony unit have recently been diagnosed with tuberculosis," it added.
Navalny, who the West says has been wrongly jailed and should be freed, returned to Russia in January after recovering from what German doctors say was a nerve agent poisoning.
He was jailed in February for two and a half years for parole violations that he called politically motivated. Russia has said it has yet to see evidence he was poisoned.
Staff at the Russian prison said they have offered Navalny proper treatment, but that he refused it. Read more
Russia’s prisons service said that a panel of doctors assessed Navalny’s health as satisfactory and that he was transferred from the clinic back to the main part of the prison on 9 April, the RIA news agency quoted it as saying.
Stalinism or a feat of the people?
The Second World War ended almost 76 years ago, but the debate around this topic has not finished to this day. And, if for Russians the Great Patriotic War is a sacred and untouchable page of history, in the Western community a revisionist approach flourishes among different circles, bordering on a deliberate distortion of historical facts and real events – write Evgeny Dumalkin and Alexander Arifov.
The most “fashionable" trend in the last few years has been attempts to lay the blame for the outbreak of the 2nd World War equally on Germany and the Soviet Union, led by Stalin, who is put on a par with Hitler.
Despite the decisions of the Nuremberg Tribunal, politicians from different countries publicly make statements that not only Nazi Germany, but also the leadership of the USSR was behind the outbreak of war in 1939. Stalin is accused of a "criminal collusion" with Hitler, implying the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and in particular, its secret protocol.
Europe on the eve of the 2nd World War: geopolitical chaos
Another memorable date associated with the defeat of Nazism in Europe, makes us going back to the 1930s of the 20th century and once again analyzing the events that led to the most terrible war.
The regime of the Weimar Republic established in 1919, as well as the disunity of the political elite in Europe, became the fertile ground that nurtured Hitler and the national socialist regime in Germany.
On one side was the vast and growing Soviet Union with its communist ideology. On the other hand, capitalist Europe, which tried its best to contain the USSR.
The rise to power of the Nazis in Germany in 1933 further fueled the flames of ideological competition on the continent. The rapidly gaining strength of the political, economic and, of course, the military machine of Hitler gave a chance to establish a kind of «ram" against Moscow.
In the 1930s, the ideology of national socialism was rapidly gaining popularity in Europe - it was seen as the opposite and powerful force to communist ideas.
Such trends in politics, as well as the weakness of international institutions of cooperation - the League of Nations was almost obsolete, gradually losing any practical meaning - characterized the chaos that reigned in international relations at that time.
Hitler actively strengthened the position of Germany, including abandoning any deterrent mechanisms in military development. Britain and France actually condoned Hitler's expansionism by giving the green light to his aggressive policies. The partition of Czechoslovakia, and then its transformation into a protectorate, the Anschluss of Austria, the annexation of Danzig, and finally the Munich Treaty - all these and many other actions of the German leadership, with the tacit consent of Europe, almost brought the continent to the brink of war.
On this background, Stalin had his own "giveaway game" with Hitler, which resulted in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with the protocol on the Europe's division.
Both sides had stroke many agreements with Hitler and were sure that he was in their hands, and would go to war wherever he was told. They acted completely synchronously. The Munich Agreement and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact are two identical documents in their meaning, so it would be much wiser and more effective to admit that the Second World War was caused by the monstrously inept and short-sighted actions of both sides, but this is hardly possible to acknowledge outside of a narrow community of historians, who already understand everything.
Attempts to make adjustments to the nature and results of the 2nd World War pursue, in our opinion, quite specific political goals of an anti-Russian nature, and not the search for historical truth. It is more relevant and fair to speak out about the USSR people's feat which we are keen to depict on own families' examples.
Feat of the Soviet people
For the Soviet Union, the war with Nazi Germany was an extremely difficult, bloody test. The country has lost, according to some sources, up to 30 million people, including military and civilian casualties. More than 30% of the national heritage has been destroyed. Such damage is not comparable to what other countries, including Germany, have lost.
To this day, historians and researchers, both in Russia and abroad, argue about the tactics of the Soviet leadership, the military command and Stalin personally on the eve and during the war. Different opinions often heard that the losses were excessive. It is claimed that Stalin did not want to provoke Hitler, so there were such high losses in manpower and equipment in the first stage of the war. Other points of view are also expressed, for example, about the notorious "barrage detachments" and the famous order "no step back".
In any case, even taking into account the miscalculations of the country's leadership and Stalin personally, the Soviet people showed incredible heroism, endurance and perseverance in the fight against German aggression.
The words "unprecedented feat of the people" conceal incredible strength of spirit, will and devotion to the Homeland. Soviet propaganda added that soldiers used the call "For the Homeland, For Stalin". However, numerous testimonies show that people, first of all, fought for their land, homes and families. It is enough to recall the unprecedented scale of the partisan movement, which was not the case in Europe.
One would't find a single family in the Soviet Union that has not been affected by the war. Moreover, people cherish the memory of their dead ancestors, pass this memory to their children.
Our grandfathers told us: "War is a daily and hourly hard work. life in conditions of constant restrictions and deprivations: physical, material, moral, spiritual. There are some examples from the memories of our families' veterans:
- To be with two children in German-occupied territory, one of whom died in his arms after picking up a child's toy, specially mined by the retreating Germans. To see how the invaders treated the Soviet people — it was not a struggle against the state of the USSR, it was a war with the people, children, women...
- Once surrounded in the autumn, to sit for almost three days in the swamp, waiting for the Germans to remove the cordon on its banks to then reach Russian troops. Do not give up and pay for a lifetime of chronic kidney disease.
- Fighting on the other part of the country, to come home in 1943 and personally evacuate the family from the Crimea raging in battles to Orenburg (1500 km).
There was a deep belief in victory, there was an understanding of something higher among those deaths, battles, the horrors of war, our grandfathers told us. It was a war of people who did not lose their human qualities.
A vivid confirmation of this family memory is the holding of the so-called "immortal regiments" processions in the cities of Russia and all over the world, where our compatriots live.
The war marked a sharp difference between the Nazis and the Soviet soldiers. The Nazis, driven by racial hatred and propaganda, brutally destroyed people in the occupied territories, millions of people were driven to work in Germany, were sent to concentration camps.
The Soviet people, when the liberation of Europe from the fascists began, especially when the Red Army troops came to Germany, did not take revenge and did no evil towards the Germans. It is enough to recall that Stalin emphasised: "The Hitlers come and go but the German people, and the German state remains."
The Soviet soldiers suffered the main hardships of the war. Of course, someone, especially in the West, can claim that the army was following Stalin's orders and the soldier was driven by fear. But the facts prove that a huge numbers of superhuman achievements and the mass scale of heroism both at the front line and in the rear, both from adults and teenagers, were the result of the fact that the Soviet people understood and realized that they were defending not only the Homeland, but also the very fact of the future existence of themselves, their children and grandchildren.
Evgeny Dumalkin is the partner of Amaltheya Capital Partners, Moscow
Alexander Arifov is the CEO of Runa Bank, Moscow
Russia: Summoning of the Russian Ambassador to the EU
European Commission Secretary General Ilze Juhansone and External Action Service Secretary General Stefano Sannino jointly summoned the Ambassador of Russian Federation to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov (pictured) to condemn the decision of the Russian authorities from last Friday (30 April) to ban eight European Union nationals from entering the territory of the Russian Federation.
Ambassador Chizhov was informed of the strong rejection and firm condemnation by the EU institutions and EU member states of this decision, which was purely politically motivated and lacks any legal justification.
Secretaries-General I. Juhansone and S. Sannino also recalled Russia's expulsion of Czech diplomats and the executive order of the Russian Federation of so called “unfriendly states”, expressing their grave concern for the cumulative impact of all these decisions on the relations between the EU and the government of the Russian Federation.
They also noted that the EU reserves the right to take appropriate measures in response.
G7 to discuss decisive action to counter threats like Russia and China
Britain on Tuesday (4 May) sought to agree decisive action from G7 partners to protect democracies against global threats like those posed by China and Russia.
Hosting the second day of a foreign ministers' meeting in London designed to lay the groundwork for a leaders' summit in June, Dominic Raab (pictured) will lead talks among the Group of Seven wealthy nations on threats to democracy, freedoms and human rights.
"The UK’s presidency of the G7 is an opportunity to bring together open, democratic societies and demonstrate unity at a time when it is much needed to tackle shared challenges and rising threats," Raab said in a statement.
In addition to the G7 members Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, Britain has also invited ministers from Australia, India, South Africa and South Korea this week.
Their first face-to-face meeting in two years is seen by Britain as a chance to reinforce support for the rules-based international system at a time when it says China's economic influence and Russian malign activity threaten to undermine it.
On Monday (3 May), having met with Raab, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said there was a need to try to forge a global alliance of freedom loving countries, though stressed he did not want to hold China down, but make sure it played by the rules. Read more
Tuesday's discussion also covered the coup in Myanmar, urging stronger action against the military junta in the form of expanded sanctions, support for arms embargoes and more humanitarian assistance.
In the afternoon talks will turn to Russia, including how to respond to a troop manoeuvres on the border with Ukraine and the imprisonment of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
Raab said on Sunday he wanted the G7 to consider a joint rebuttal unit to tackle Russian disinformation and propaganda. Read more
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