Alexei Navalny supporters detained outside his Russian penal colony

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Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny during a hearing  - Moscow City Court Press Office /TASS

Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny during a hearing – Moscow City Court Press Office /TASS

A number of supporters of Alexei Navalny were detained Tuesday outside his penal colony east of Moscow after they demanded access to the jailed Kremlin critic, who is on hunger strike demanding proper medical treatment.

Among those detained was Anastasia Vasilyeva, Mr Navalny’s personal doctor and head of the Alliance of Doctors medical trade union which is critical of the government, according to the group and AFP journalists at the scene.

Earlier on Tuesday Russian police had stepped up security at the prison as Mr Navalny’s supporters prepared to stage a protest outside the facility to demand that authorities give him proper medical care.

Mr Navalny, 44, a prominent opponent of President Vladimir Putin, announced a hunger strike last week in protest at what he said was the refusal of prison authorities to treat him properly for acute back and leg pain.

A group of his allies said they would protest at the prison in the town of Pokrov 100 km (60 miles) east of Moscow unless he saw a doctor of his choice and was given what they regarded as proper medicine.

Prison authorities say his condition is satisfactory and he has been provided with all necessary medical care.

The pro-Kremlin Izvestia newspaper later cited the state prison service saying that Mr Navalny had been moved to a sick bay and tested for the coronavirus.

On Tuesday morning, police officers, one with a police dog, set up a makeshift checkpoint in front of the prison gate and used a metal barrier to block the road 100 metres from it.

They closed the parking lot to all but prison staff, and checked the IDs of reporters and prison workers.

“It is now under a special (security) regime,” a police woman told Reuters.

Antonina Romanova, a Navalny supporter, said she had come to show solidarity.

“I believe he is innocent. I’m fully on his side,” she said. “It happens that for some reason the people who can sort things out in the country end up in jail,” she said.

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