Alexei Navalny: Russian opposition leader was poisoned, German hospital suggests

‘His health is serious, but there is currently no acute danger to his life,’ statement says

Samuel Osborne
Monday 24 August 2020 15:05 BST
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny airlifted to Germany

Russian dissident Alexei Navalny was poisoned, the German hospital treating him has said.

The Charite hospital in Berlin said that the team of doctors who have been treating him since he was admitted on Saturday had found the presence of “cholinesterase inhibitors” in his system.

Cholinesterase inhibitors are a broad range of substances found in several drugs but also in pesticides and nerve agents. Common side effects include vomiting, muscle cramps, headache and hallucinations.

Doctors at the hospital said that the specific substance to which Mr Navalny was exposed is not yet known.

“The patient is in an intensive care unit and is still in an induced coma. His health is serious but there is currently no acute danger to his life,” the hospital said in a statement.

Berlin police and federal agents were posted at the downtown hospital where Mr Navalny has been undergoing treatment following his arrival in Germany after the chancellor, Angela Merkel, personally offered the country’s assistance

“It was obvious that after his arrival, protective precautions had to be taken,” Ms Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, told reporters. “After all, this is a patient who, with a certain degree of probability, was poisoned.”

Later on Monday, Ms Merkel called for Russia to investigate the suspected poisoning and hold the perpetrators accountable.

“In light of the prominent role played by Mr Navalny in the political opposition in Russia, the authorities there are now urgently called upon to investigate this crime to the last detail – and do so in full transparency,” Ms Merkel said in a joint statement with Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas.

“Those responsible must be identified and held accountable,” she added.

Mr Navalny was campaigning in Siberia when he collapsed while on a plane last Thursday after drinking tea at Tomsk airport.

His supporters believe the tea was laced with poison. They allege that the Kremlin was behind both his illness and a delay in transferring him to Germany.

However, Russian doctors have said that tests showed no traces of poison in Mr Navalny’s system. The Kremlin has not yet commented on the allegation.

Last week, Mr Navalny’s team submitted a request in Russia to launch a criminal probe, but as of Monday, Russia’s Investigative Committee still has not opened a case, Mr Navalny’s spokesperson Kira Yarmysh said.

Ilya Yashin, an opposition politician in Moscow and a close ally of Mr Navalny, urged Russia’s law enforcement, in a video statement, to investigate “an attempt at a life of a public figure” and to look into the possible involvement of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

“It is Putin who benefits from these endless assaults,” Mr Yashin said.

Mr Navalny has been an outspoken critic of the Kremlin for more than a decade.

He has been repeatedly detained for organising rallies and public meetings, and sued over his investigations into corruption. In 2018, he was barred from running in the presidential election.

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