Russian Navalny in a coma, allegedly poisoned by poisonous tea
MOSCOW – Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, one of Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critics, remained in a coma in a Siberian hospital on Friday after what his allies said was Kremlin-designed poisoning .
Navalny’s organization was scrambling to make arrangements to transfer him to Germany for treatment; a German group said they were ready to send him a plane and a renowned hospital in Berlin was ready to treat him.
Navalny, 44, fell ill on Thursday on a flight back to Moscow from the Siberian city of Tomsk and was taken to hospital after the plane made an emergency landing in Omsk, the door said. Spoken by Navalny, Kira Yarmysh, on Twitter.
She told radio station Echo Moskvy he must have consumed poison in tea he drank in an airport cafe before boarding the plane early Thursday. During the flight, Navalny started to sweat and asked him to speak to him so that he could “focus on the sound of a voice.” He then went to the bathroom and lost consciousness, and was in a coma and on a ventilator in a grave. condition since.
In a video statement released early Friday in Omsk, Yarmysh said Navalny remained in critical condition and called on hospital management “not to prevent us from providing all the documents necessary for his transfer.” It was not clear what the possible obstructions might be.
Other opposition figures were quick to suggest the Kremlin’s involvement.
Jaka Bizilj of the German organization Cinema For Peace, which organized Verzilov’s treatment in Germany, said that at Verzilov’s request “we will send an air ambulance at midnight with medical equipment and specialists with which Navalny can be brought to Germany. “
Omsk is about 4,200 kilometers (2,500 miles) east of Berlin, or about a six-hour flight.
Doctors at the Omsk Ambulance No. 1 hospital, where the politician was being treated, have kept quiet about his diagnosis, saying only that they are considering a variety of theories, including poisoning. Local health officials said they had found no indication Navalny suffered from a heart attack, stroke or coronavirus.
Authorities initially refused to let Navalny’s wife Yulia see her husband and denied requests for documents that would allow him to be transferred to a European hospital for treatment, Yarmysh said.
Verzilov, who was flown to Berlin for treatment in 2018, said hospitals in Omsk or Moscow would not be able to treat Navalny properly and expressed concern about possible pressures from the health services. security to which doctors could be subjected in Russia.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was necessary to wait for test results showing what caused Navalny’s condition, adding that authorities would consider a request to allow Navalny to leave Russia, who did not fully open their borders after a coronavirus lockdown, for treatment.
The Tass state news agency reported that police were not considering deliberate poisoning, a statement that allies of the politician rejected.
Reports of the suspected poisoning have made waves in the West.
French President Emmanuel Macron said France was ready to offer Navalny and his family “all the assistance necessary … in terms of health care, asylum, protection” and insisted on the need to clarify what happened.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking at a joint press conference with Macron, echoed the sentiment. “What is very important is that it will be urgently clarified how this could happen to the situation.”
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and the United Nations have also expressed concern over what happened to Navalny, and Amnesty International has demanded a full and thorough investigation.
The widow of Alexander Litvinenko, the Russian agent who was killed in London by radioactive poisoning in 2006, expressed concern that Navalny’s enemies in Russia may have decided it was time to use a ” new tactic ”.
“Maybe they decided… not to just stop him with an arrest, but to stop him with poison.” It sounds like a new tactic against Navalny, ”Marina Litvinenko told The Associated Press in Sicily, Italy.
Like many other opposition politicians in Russia, Navalny has been frequently detained by law enforcement and harassed by pro-Kremlin groups. In 2017, he was assaulted by several men who threw an antiseptic in his face, damaging one eye.
Last year Navalny was rushed to hospital from prison, where he was serving time following an administrative arrest, with what his team said was suspected poisoning. Doctors said he had had a severe allergic attack and sent him back to jail the next day.
The Navalny Anti-Corruption Foundation denounced corruption among government officials, including some at the highest level. Last month, he had to shut down the foundation after a financially devastating trial of Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman closely linked to the Kremlin.
Authoritarian Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko accused Navalny last week of staging unprecedented mass protests against his re-election that rocked Russia’s former Soviet neighbor since August 9. foreign forces for the troubles.
The most prominent member of the Russian opposition, Navalny, campaigned to challenge Putin in the 2018 presidential election, but was not allowed to run.
He set up campaign offices across Russia and promoted opposition candidates in regional elections, challenging members of Russia’s ruling United Russia party. One of his associates in Khabarovsk, a city in the Russian Far East that has been engulfed by mass protests against the region’s governor arrest, was arrested last week after calling for a strike during of a gathering.
In the interview with Echo Moskvy, Yarmysh said she believed the alleged poisoning was linked to this year’s regional election campaign.
Commentators say Navalny has become increasingly dangerous for the Kremlin as Putin’s approval rating plummets to an all-time high of around 60% amid the coronavirus pandemic and growing public frustration with the to the declining economy.
Navalny’s ability to mobilize voters against pro-Kremlin candidates poses a particular challenge ahead of the 2021 parliamentary elections, said Abbas Gallyamov, a former Kremlin speechwriter turned political analyst.
“The Duma elections are especially important for the Kremlin,” because the new Duma will operate in 2024, when Putin’s current presidential term expires and he may announce his candidacy for re-election, Gallyamov told the PA.
“This is why the control of the next State Duma is of crucial importance for the Kremlin. Navalny really makes it more difficult for the Kremlin to establish this control”, added Gallyamov.
At the same time, Navalny, who rose to fame for exposing corruption across Russia, may have other enemies, Gallyamov said, and could have been targeted by people in one of his investigations, if he was indeed deliberately poisoned.
Navalny is not the first opposition figure to have fallen victim to a mysterious poisoning.
Verzilov, who spent a month in a hospital recovering from his suspected poisoning in 2018, told the AP that Navalny’s first symptoms – loss of coordination, pain, fainting – were very similar to his.
Opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza was hospitalized twice with symptoms of poisoning – in 2015 and 2017. Prominent journalist Anna Politkovskaya was also reportedly poisoned in 2004 – two years before she was murdered.
On Thursday evening, activists from several Russian cities staged demonstrations in support of Navalny. In St. Petersburg, a crowd of around 100 gathered in the city center and several supporters were arrested.
“It was actually in the best interests of the authorities to protect him,” Yegor Batozhok, 34, a St. Petersburg municipal deputy told the AP. “But for some reason, a number of those who criticize the authorities are poisoned.”
Associated Press writers Irina Titova in St. Petersburg, Angela Charlton in Paris, Pan Pylas in London, Alexander Roslyakov and Jim Heintz in Moscow, and Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin have contributed.