German activists say they send plane to retrieve Navalny
BERLIN (Reuters) – An ambulance plane with a team specializing in treating coma patients is due to leave Germany to pick up Russian dissident Alexei Navalny on Thursday evening, the Berlin-based Cinema for Peace Foundation said.
Navalny was ill earlier Thursday with suspected poisoning and is currently in a coma in a hospital in the Siberian city of Omsk.
In 2018, the Foundation, founded by Slovenian-born activist and filmmaker Jaka Bizilj, organized here bring anti-Kremlin activist Piotr Verzilov to Berlin for treatment after being poisoned in Moscow.
Activists said Verzilov, a member of the dissident art collective Pussy Riot, had asked for a plane to be sent to Navalny.
“For humanitarian reasons, at the request of Pyotr Verzilov of Pussy Riot, we will send an air ambulance at midnight with medical supplies and specialists with which Navalny can be brought to Germany,” Bizilj said in a statement.
“We are in contact with the authorities and hope that all transport permits and a medical report for the coma patient will be delivered this evening,” he said, adding that the Berlin Charity Hospital was ready to to take it.
No one at the hospital was immediately available for comment.
Bizilj told the Bild newspaper that the plane would return from Omsk on Friday morning, provided Navalny was fit to travel.
Earlier, Chancellor Angela Merkel had told reporters that Germany was ready to provide medical support to Navalny if she received the request.
“If asked, we will provide her with medical assistance, including German hospitals, but the request has to come from there,” she said at a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron in the south of France.
A German foreign ministry official said they were aware of a “private initiative” to bring Navalny to Germany.
Navalny, a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin, began to feel ill on a flight to Moscow on Thursday morning after drinking tea at an airport cafe in the Siberian city of Tomsk.
If his illness is confirmed as poisoning, it would be the latest in a long line of such and suspected cases involving people who fell out with the Kremlin, who denies settling scores with their enemies by murdering them .
Reporting by Madeline Chambers and Thomas Escritt; Edited by Hugh Lawson and Nick Macfie