OMSK: Russian doctors were fighting to save the life of leading opposition figure Alexei Navalny on Thursday after he was rushed to intensive care in Siberia suffering from what his spokeswoman said was suspected poisoning.
Navalny — a 44-year-old lawyer and anti-corruption campaigner who is among President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critics — was in a coma in hospital in the city of Omsk after he lost consciousness on a flight and his plane made an emergency landing.
“Doctors aren’t just doing everything possible. The doctors are really working now on saving his life,” the hospital’s deputy head doctor Anatoly Kalinichenko told journalists in Omsk.
Navalny’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said he was on a ventilator and tests were being carried out, while he was in a serious but stable condition.
“Alexei has toxic poisoning,” Yarmysh wrote on Twitter, describing how he had taken ill during the flight from the city of Tomsk to Moscow and had to be taken off the plane.
She pointed the finger at Putin, saying: “Whether or not he gave the order personally, the blame lies with him.” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he knew of Navalny’s illness and “as with any citizen of Russia, we wish him a speedy recovery”.
He said claims of poisoning were “only assumptions” until tests proved otherwise.
Kalinichenko said no diagnosis had yet been reached, while the regional health ministry said Navalny was in a natural, not induced, coma.
Navalny’s wife Yulia arrived at the hospital in the city which is about 2,200 kilometres east of Moscow.
Yarmysh said police and investigators had also arrived and journalists reported seeing FSB security service agents at the hospital.
“We think that Alexei was poisoned with something mixed in his tea. That was the only thing he drank in the morning,” Yarmysh wrote on Twitter.
Yarmysh told the Echo of Moscow radio station that she was “sure it was intentional poisoning”.
State news agency TASS cited a law enforcement source questioning this. “We can’t rule out that he drank or took something himself yesterday,” the source said, a claim Yarmysh dismissed as “complete rubbish”.
Political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya said that Navalny has “garnered hundreds of enemies including some hardened individuals”, pointing to his anti-corruption investigations that attract millions of views online.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted he was “deeply concerned” while EU foreign affairs high representative Josep Borrell wrote that if the suspected poisoning was confirmed “those responsible must be held to account”.
The politician has previously suffered physical attacks, and a number of other Kremlin critics have been poisoned in the past. He endured chemical burns to his eye in 2017 when attackers threw green dye at him outside his office.
Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2020