Russian opposition leader out of coma after novichok poisoning

The poisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been taken out of an induced coma and is responsive, according to the German hospital treating him.

Berlin’s Charite hospital said he was being weaned off mechanical ventilation. “It remains too early to gauge the potential long-term effects of his severe poisoning,” it said in a statement.

The hospital noted that he was responding to speech but “long-term consequences of the serious poisoning can still not be ruled out”.

Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, said Berlin has concluded Mr Navalny was poisoned with novichok, the same substance the British government said was used against Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in an attack in Salisbury in 2018.

Moscow denies any involvement and has accused Germany of failing to provide any evidence about the poisoning.

Mr Navalny, a staunch critic of Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, was flown to Germany on 22 August, two days after falling ill on a domestic flight in Russia.

Over the weekend, Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Mass, said the Russian reaction could determine whether Germany changes its support for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which brings Russian gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea, bypassing Ukraine.

“The chancellor also believes that it’s wrong to rule anything out,” Ms Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, told reporters after being asked about Mr Maas’ comments.

Previously, Ms Merkel had insisted on “decoupling” Mr Navalny’s case from the pipeline project, which the US strongly opposes.

In August, three US Republican senators threatened sanctions against the operator of a Baltic Sea port located in Ms Merkel’s parliamentary constituency for its role as a staging post for ships involved in building Nord Stream 2.

Mr Seibert has said it was premature to expect Moscow to respond to the matter within a few days, but made it clear that Berlin wants answers soon.

“I can’t express a clear, time-limited expectation, except that we are certainly not talking about months or the end of the year,” he said.

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