MOSCOW, April 23 (Reuters) - Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny said on Friday he would begin gradually ending a hunger strike that he declared in prison on March 31 to demand proper medical care for leg and back pain.
In an Instagram post, the fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin said that he still demanded that he be seen by a doctor of his own choosing and that he was losing feeling in parts of his legs and arms.
He said, however, that he had been twice seen by civilian doctors. He added it would take him 24 days to gradually end the hunger strike and thanked the "good people" in Russia and around the world for their support.
"Thank you - I have now been examined twice by a panel of civilian doctors. The last time was just before the rally. They are doing tests and analyses and giving me the results and conclusions," he wrote.
"I am not withdrawing my request to allow the necessary doctor to see me - I am losing feeling in areas of my arms and legs, and I want to understand what it is and how to treat it, but considering the progress and all the circumstances, I am beginning to come out of the hunger strike," he wrote.
Navalny is the principal focus of opposition to Putin, and his failing health after three weeks on hunger strike had drawn expressions of alarm from Western governments. Thousands of his supporters protested in cities all across Russia on Wednesday.
The United States had warned Moscow it would face "consequences" if he died.
Navalny survived a poison attack with a nerve agent last year, which Russia denied carrying out.
(Reporting by Andrew Osborn; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by Andrew Osborn and Mark Trevelyan)
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