MOSCOW (Reuters) -Allies of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said on Thursday he had lost 8kg in prison before even beginning a hunger strike, something they blamed on guards depriving him of sleep even as the prison service defended his treatment in custody.
Navalny, one of President Vladimir Putin's most prominent critics, went on hunger strike on Wednesday to try to force the prison holding him to give him proper medical care for what he said was acute pain in his back and legs.
The opposition politician whose release the West has demanded said last week that guards were waking him up every hour at night and that his appeals for medical care were being ignored.
On Thursday, his allies said he had been taken to be weighed after declaring the hunger strike and that his weight had fallen to 85kg (187 lbs) from the 93kg (205 lbs) he weighed when he arrived at the IK-2 prison facility last month.
"He himself links this weight loss primarily to the fact that he is not allowed to sleep and is woken up eight times a night," his allies said in a post on his Twitter account.
Navalny's lawyers visit him in jail regularly and help him publish messages on social media.
The prison service in Vladimir region, where IK-2 is located, deny he is being deprived of sleep and said in a statement late on Wednesday that conditions for him at the prison were entirely legal and the same as for other inmates.
"Correction facility officers strictly respect the right of all inmates to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep," it said, adding that guards check on inmates visually at night, something it said did not stop them resting.
It also said Navalny was being provided with all necessary medical care.
Navalny has said that daily requests for a doctor of his choice to examine him and for proper medicine have been ignored in prison.
Navalny's allies said their chosen doctor had not been able to visit him on Thursday.
Instead, they said, Maria Butina, a Russian state TV talk show host who earlier spent time in jail in the United States as a foreign agent, turned up with a camera crew.
"She shouted that this was the best and most comfortable prison. Navalny told her off in front of a line of prisoners for 15 minutes, calling her a parasite and servant of the thieves in power," they said.
Alexei Barinov, a doctor, told Reuters early on Thursday that Navalny's lawyers had asked him to treat Navalny and that they had asked the prison service either to allow him into the prison or to let Navalny out to a clinic.
"We're waiting for a decision from the FSIN (prison service)," he said.
(Reporting by Polina Nikolskaya and Anton Zverev; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by William Maclean and Alex Richardson)