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Alexei Navalny: Doctors say Putin critic can’t be moved to Germany

Alexei Navalny: Doctors say Putin critic can’t be moved to Germany

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Mr Navalny was flying to Moscow from Tomsk and was diverted to Omsk after he fell ill Russian doctors say leading opposition figure Alexei Navalny – who supporters believe was poisoned – remains too ill to be moved to Germany for treatment. Mr Navalny has been in a coma since

Alexei Navalny in July 2020Image copyright
Reuters

Image caption

Mr Navalny was flying to Moscow from Tomsk and was diverted to Omsk after he fell ill

Russian doctors say leading opposition figure Alexei Navalny – who supporters believe was poisoned – remains too ill to be moved to Germany for treatment.

Mr Navalny has been in a coma since Thursday when he fell ill on a flight and his supporters called the doctors’ decision “a direct threat to his life”.

They cited one report of “a deadly substance” dangerous not only to Mr Navalny but to all around him.

Doctors treating him in Siberia said no poison had been found in his system.

In a preliminary diagnosis on Friday, they said his condition might be the result of a “metabolic disorder” caused by low blood sugar.

Mr Navalny is a prominent critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

His team suspects a poisonous substance was put in his tea at an airport cafe in the city of Tomsk as he prepared to fly to Moscow.

Activists in Germany have sent a plane to bring Mr Navalny to Berlin for treatment.

The head doctor at the hospital treating Mr Navalny in Omsk in Siberia said the patient was too unstable to be transferred and that legal questions would need to be resolved before any move.

Mr Navalny’s team said it was “deadly” for him to remain in the hospital.

“The ban on the transportation of Navalny is an attempt on his life,” his spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh wrote on Twitter.

What’s happening with efforts to move him?

The Berlin-based Cinema for Peace Foundation organised an air ambulance to pick up Mr Navalny and bring him back to Berlin, where it said the Charite hospital was ready to treat him.

It said the aircraft had medical equipment and a team specialised in treating coma patients on board.

The Cinema for Peace Foundation was founded by activist and filmmaker Jaka Bizilj. In 2018, it arranged for the treatment of Pyotr Verzilov – an activist with Russian protest group Pussy Riot – who had symptoms of poisoning.

The air ambulance for Mr Navalny arrived in Omsk on Friday morning.

The hospital said it would not hand Mr Navalny over. His wife, Yulia Navalnaya, told reporters she believed the doctors were seeking to cover up her husband’s poisoning.

“We certainly believe that it is done to make sure that a chemical substance which is in Alexei’s body will dissolve,” she said. “We certainly cannot trust this hospital”.

A spokesperson for Mr Putin said on Thursday that the Kremlin would help move Mr Navalny abroad if necessary and wished him a “speedy recovery”. On Friday, it said it was “a purely medical decision” to keep him in Russia.

The German government said it was in touch with officials in Moscow to find a solution to the “humanitarian emergency”.

The EU called for Mr Navalny to be “safely and speedily transferred abroad” and urged a “swift, independent, transparent investigation” into the suspected poisoning.

The US Embassy in Russia said that, “if true”, the suspected poisoning of Mr Navalny “represents a grave moment for Russia”.

How did he end up in hospital?

Mr Navalny fell ill during a flight from Tomsk to Moscow and his plane made an emergency landing in Omsk.

“Alexei has toxic poisoning,” Ms Yarmysh tweeted.

Image copyright
EPA

Image caption

A man in Moscow watches social media footage of Mr Navalny being stretchered to an ambulance

Video footage on social media showed Mr Navalny being taken on a stretcher to an ambulance on the airport runway.

Other disturbing video appeared to show a stricken Mr Navalny in pain on the flight. Passenger Pavel Lebedev said he heard the activist “screaming in pain”.

Another photograph on social media purported to show Mr Navalny drinking from a cup at a Tomsk airport cafe.

What’s the latest on his condition?

Alexander Murakhovsky, the head doctor at the Siberian hospital, said a preliminary diagnosis of a “metabolic disorder” had been given.

“This could have been caused by a sharp fall in blood sugar levels, which caused a loss of consciousness,” he said.

The hospital says its tests have found no traces of poison in Mr Navalny’s blood so far. Mr Murakhovsky said traces of a common industrial chemical used in plastic cups had been found on Mr Navalny’s clothes and fingers.

He earlier said there were five possible diagnoses.

Deputy head doctor Anatoly Kalinichenko said “poisoning as a diagnosis remains on the back burner” but that doctors did not believe poisoning was responsible.

Ivan Zhdanov, an associate of Mr Navalny, said on Friday he had been told by a transport police official that a “deadly” substance had been used, which posed a threat not only to the opposition figure’s life, but also those around him, meaning that protective suits should be worn.

Image copyright
EPA

Image caption

Mr Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya, is at the hospital

State news agency Tass cited a police officer saying: “We can’t rule out that he drank or took something himself”. Ms Yarmysh dismissed this as “complete rubbish”.

Who is Alexei Navalny?

He is a prominent critic of Mr Putin who made a name for himself by exposing official corruption. He has served multiple jail terms.

He was taken ill while imprisoned in 2019 for calling for unauthorised protests. Doctors diagnosed him with “contact dermatitis” but he said he had never had any acute allergic reactions and his own doctor suggested he might have been exposed to “some toxic agent”. Mr Navalny also said he thought he may have been poisoned.

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Media captionPower tools are used to raid Navalny’s foundation in December 2019

Mr Navalny also suffered a serious chemical burn to his right eye in 2017 when he was assaulted with green, antiseptic dye.

Last year his Anti-Corruption Foundation was officially declared a “foreign agent”, enabling the authorities to subject it to more checks.

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Susan E. Lopez
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