19.05.2022

Putin critic arrives in Germany for treatment after suspected poisoning

Alexei Navalny, a prominent Russian opposition leader in a coma after a suspected poisoning, is in hospital after being flown into Berlin for treatment.

The 44-year-old fell unconscious on a plane on Thursday and was taken to intensive care in Omsk, Siberia.

The politician, who is a fierce critic of Vladimir Putin, has now been allowed to go to Germany – but only after much wrangling that his supporters denounced as a ploy by authorities to stall until any poison in his system would be no longer traceable.

His wife has also accused authorities of trying to buy time for this reason.

Mr Navalny landed in Berlin early on Saturday, and was flown by air ambulance, arranged by the Cinema for Peace Foundation, to the capital’s main hospital.

Doctors in Omsk had initially said he was too unstable to move, but relented when the charity that had organised the plane said German doctors who examined the politician said he was fit to be transported.

Charite Hospital in Berlin said in a statement that it would provide an update about his condition and further treatment once tests have been completed and after consulting with his family.

Cinema for Peace founder Jaka Bizilj, a Slovenian-born activist and filmmaker, was quoted by Bild as saying Mr Navalny’s condition was stable during the flight and after landing.

Kira Yarmysh, Mr Navalny’s spokesperson, said on Twitter that “This is another proof that nothing was preventing Navalny from being transported, and it was necessary to do so as early as possible.”​

The Kremlin denied that resistance to the transfer was political, with spokesperson Dmitry Peskov saying that it was purely a medical decision.

Mr Navalny fell ill on Thursday while he was on a plane heading to Siberia and was unconscious by the time the plane landed.

His supporters believe that tea he drank was laced with poison, and that the Kremlin is behind both his illness and the delay in transferring him to a top German hospital.

A senior doctor at the Omsk hospital claimed earlier this week medics were satisfied there was no poison in his blood.

Shortly after, the hospital’s chief clinician, Andrei Mukharovsky, said doctors had only “working diagnoses”, claiming the most likely of these was a “carbohydrate imbalance … possibly caused by a sharp drop in blood sugar levels”.

Mr Bizilj, speaking to reporters outside Charite on Saturday, said “his health condition is very worrying”.

“We got a very clear message from the doctors that if there had not been an emergency landing in Omsk, he would have died,” adding that it would be up to doctors and Mr Navalny’s family to provide further information on his condition.

The most prominent member of Russia’s opposition, Mr Navalny campaigned to challenge Mr Putin in the 2018 presidential election but was barred from running. Since then, he has been promoting opposition candidates in regional elections, challenging members of the ruling party, United Russia.

His Foundation for Fighting Corruption has been exposing graft among government officials, including some at the highest level. But he had to shut the foundation last month after a financially devastating lawsuit from a businessman with close ties to the Kremlin.

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