Fierce Vladimir Putin critic Alexei Navalny fights for life after suspected ‘poisoning’

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Moscow: Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny is fighting for his life in a Siberian hospital Thursday.  Allies said they think that the tea which was served to Alexei Navalny was laced with poison. It should be stated here that Alexei Navalny is fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin.

Navalny started feeling ill Wednesday morning on a plane returning here from Tomsk in Siberia. He was carried off the plane on a stretcher after it made an emergency landing at Omsk.

Kira Yarmysh, his spokeswoman, said he was in intensive care in a serious but stable condition. He was on an artificial lung ventilator. “We assume that Alexei was poisoned with something mixed into his tea. It was the only thing that he drank in the morning. Alexei is now unconscious,” Yarmysh said.

Doctors gave contradictory information about his condition. They said his health had stabilised and that he was in a coma. However, some said there was still a threat to his life and they were working to save him.

Navalny’s wife Yulia flew from here to be with him, but Yarmysh said hospital officials had so far prevented her from seeing her husband.

There is a long history of Kremlin foes being poisoned or falling ill after suspected poisonings. They include Alexander Litvinenko, who died in London in 2006 after drinking tea laced with polonium-210. Then there is the case of Sergei Skripal, a former double agent. He was poisoned with a nerve agent in 2018 in Salisbury, England.

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied involvement in those and other incidents, calling them anti-Russian provocations. It said Thursday that doctors were doing everything they could to help Navalny. Government officials wished Navalny a speedy recovery. Any poisoning would need to be confirmed by laboratory tests, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Yarmysh did not say who she believed may have poisoned Navalny but said police had been called to the hospital. Police said they had not yet opened an investigation into Navalny’s suspected poisoning.

Regional health ministry spokeswoman, Tatyana Shakirova, confirmed that Navalny has been hospitalised in Omsk. She said doctors assessed his condition as serious.

“Doctors are doing everything possible to stabilise his condition,” she said. “The poisoning version is one of several versions being considered. It’s not possible now to say what the reason was,” she added.

Navalny is a 44-year-old lawyer and anti-corruption activist. He has served many stints in jail for organising anti-Kremlin protests. He has also been physically attacked in the street by pro-government activists. He has published investigations into what he has said are outrageous examples of official corruption. His videos on the subject have garnered millions of views.

Russia holds regional elections next month. Navalny and his allies were in Omsk to try to increase support for candidates whom they back.

Passenger Pavel Lebedev posted an account of what he saw on social media.

“At the start of the flight he (Navalny) went to the toilet and didn’t come back. He started feeling really sick. They struggled to bring him round and he was screaming in pain,” wrote Lebedev.

Footage posted on social media showed a motionless Navalny being stretchered into an ambulance by medics.

Navalny had a cup of tea at a Tomsk airport cafe before boarding his flight, Yarmysh said. She drew a parallel with an incident last year in which Navalny suffered an acute allergic reaction that one doctor said could have resulted from poisoning with an unknown chemical. “Obviously the same has been done to him now,” Yarmysh said.

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