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Russian doctors were fighting to save the life of leading opposition figure Alexei Navalny on Thursday, August 20, after he was rushed to intensive care in Siberia suffering from what his spokeswoman said was a suspected poisoning.
Navalny, a 44-year-old lawyer and anti-corruption campaigner who is among President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critics, was in a 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’s Kira Yarmysh said Navalny had been placed in a coma on a ventilator and that tests were being carried out.
“Alexei has toxic poisoning,” she 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.
Kalinichenko said that no diagnosis had yet been reached and doctors were not sure “as of today that the reason for his condition is poisoning.”
‘Something in his tea’
Yarmysh said police and investigators had arrived and questioned a doctor, 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.”
The head of the legal department of the Anti-Corruption Foundation that Navalny founded, Vyacheslav Gimadi, wrote on Twitter that “Navalny was poisoned for his political position and activity.”
State news agency TASS cited a law enforcement source casting doubt on this.
“We can’t rule out that he drank or took something himself yesterday,” the source said.
The pro-Kremlin REN TV channel claimed tests showed “secondary signs of drunkenness.”
Yarmysh dismissed this 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.
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.
In August last year Navalny suffered rashes and his face became swollen while he was serving a short jail term for calling for illegal protests.
- ‘Quickly lost consciousness’ –
He was taken to hospital where doctors said he had suffered an allergic reaction but Navalny asked for an investigation into poisoning.
“He was poisoned in the police detention center. I’m sure that now the same thing happened,” Yarmysh told Echo of Moscow.
She said that Navalny on Thursday morning seemed “absolutely fine” as they went to the airport in Tomsk.
“He only drank black tea in the airport,” she said.
“Straight after takeoff he quite quickly lost consciousness.”
REN TV posted a video shot from the plane of him being wheeled on a stretcher into an ambulance.
Navalny, a charismatic lawyer and whistleblower, is traveling the country to promote a tactical voting strategy to oppose pro-Putin candidates in more than 30 regional elections in September.
Navalny went to Siberia to help opposition candidates.
“The ruling party has a lot of money but we can only rely on the help of good, honest people,” he wrote in an Instagram post from Tomsk this week.
Navalny has been the target of multiple criminal probes, while his Anti-Corruption Foundation is regularly raided by police and investigators.
He has served numerous terms in police cells for organising illegal protests.
Recently he has backed the protests in Belarus against strongman Alexander Lukashenko, encouraging supporters who “want what Belarus has” to support opposition candidates.
The incident follows other poisonings of Kremlin critics.
Britain named two Russian military intelligence agents as suspects after Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with nerve agent Novichok in the city of Salisbury in March 2018.
In 2006, former Russian security service agent Alexander Litvinenko was fatally poisoned with radioactive polonium in a cup of tea in London. Russia refused to extradite chief suspect Andrei Lugovoi, who became a nationalist MP.
Several other opposition figures have suffered severe illnesses in Russia that they blamed on poisoning. – Rappler.com