Following lengthy delays, a comatose Russian dissident has arrived in Germany to receive treatment for a mysterious medical emergency.
According to The Associated Press, Alexei Navalny landed early Saturday morning in Berlin after being released from an intensive care unit in the Siberian city of Omsk, where he was admitted the previous day because of a suspected poisoning.
The 44-year-old politician and anti-corruption activist, a prominent voice against longstanding Russian President Vladimir Putin, had been diverted to Omsk after suddenly falling ill on a flight from the neighboring city of Tomsk to Moscow.
Navalny reportedly was still comatose Saturday morning upon admission to Charité hospital in downtown Berlin. He is believed to be in better physical health, but no further information was to be provided, with extensive medical tests still ongoing at the time.
“He survived the flight and he’s stable,” said Jaka Bizilj, chairman of the German non-governmental organization Cinema for Peace, which organized the emergency flight to Berlin.
Navalny was just put on the plane https://t.co/chCsCbMWnW
— Nikita Kulachenkov (@nekulachenkov) August 22, 2020
The air ambulance waiting for Navalny has been sitting on the tarmac in Omsk for 17 HOURS. He’d already be in Berlin getting world-class care, if the Russian docs cut the shit. https://t.co/WHP5f765kL
— Kevin Rothrock (@KevinRothrock) August 21, 2020
Efforts to see Navalny moved from Omsk to Berlin were highly contentious.
The medical aircraft initially sent by Cinema for Peace to deliver Navalny had arrived in Russia early Friday morning, according to previous reports from the AP, but ICU physicians responsible for the dissident’s care were unwilling to clear his departure, suggesting he was too unstable to fly.
When German physicians aboard the aerial ambulance publicly indicated their third-party assessment had proved Navalny fit for transport, however, Russian medical professionals relented, having already set back the transfer by roughly a day.
Even before the second medical opinion, supporters and members of Navalny’s family dismissed the official position of Russian medical personnel.
Those close to Navalny believe his mysterious deterioration was the result of a politically motivated assassination attempt carried out by the Kremlin. The delays, they alleged, had been pursued in an attempt to cover up the operation by providing enough time for any residual poison to become untraceable in the dissident’s system.
According to Reuters, Russian physicians already have ruled out poison as a cause for the incident, with Omsk hospital head doctor Alexander Murakhovksy reporting first that Navalny’s clothes and hands had tested positive for traces of several strange industrial chemicals and later that he had been diagnosed with a metabolic disease potentially caused by low blood sugar.
Western toxicology experts, however, found suspect the speedy dismissal of poison as a potential factor in the dissident’s decline.
“It takes a while to rule things out. And particularly if something is highly toxic — it will be there in very low concentrations, and many screening tests would just not pick that substance up,” University of Leeds medical school professor Alastair Hay said.
— Julia Ioffe (@juliaioffe) August 19, 2020
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov categorically denied allegations regarding an assassination plot against Navalny.
This isn’t the first time this century that such allegations have been leveled against the Kremlin, with the AP reporting numerous potential assassination attempts carried out against activists, spies, journalists and politicians opposed to the Putin administration.
Navalny, a prominent anti-corruption investigator, protest organizer and galvanizing figure in the Putin-opposed Progress Party, certainly fits the profile of a man likely to fall in the Kremlin’s cross-hairs.
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