Opposition party member and critic of Vladimir Putin believed to have been poisoned

Alexei Navalny remains unconcious and in a critical condition on a ventilator in Siberia his spokeswoman said.

Navalny, 44, has gained prominence in Russia over the years as a critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government.

The political activist was on his way to Moscow from Siberian city Tomsk when he suddenly became ill causing the plane to divert to Omsk.

“This morning Navalny was returning to Moscow from Tomsk. During the flight, he felt bad. The plane urgently landed in Omsk. Alexey has toxic poisoning,” said his spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh via Twitter.

“We assume that Alexei was poisoned with something mixed into the tea. It was the only thing that he drank in the morning. Doctors say the toxin was absorbed faster through the hot liquid.”

Navalny has been admitted to the acute poisoning unit of Omsk emergency hospital No. 1 and is in a “serious condition,” hospital head physician Alexander Murakhovsky said.

Asked by a reporter if Navalny had been poisoned, the hospital’s deputy head physician, Anatoly Kalinichenko  said: “Naturally, poisoning is considered as one of the possible reasons for the deterioration of his state. But apart from this, this could be a number of conditions that started acutely and led to the same clinical reactions. We are working on all of them: excluding, confirming.”

In an earlier tweet, Kira Yarmysh said the intensive care unit was full of police officers.

“They try to get an explanation from the doctor. The doctor saw me in the distance in the corridor, said that ‘some things are confidential’ and took the police to another room,” Yarmysh said.

“The evasive reaction of doctors only confirms that this is poisoning,” Yarmysh added. “Just two hours ago, they were ready to share any information, and now they are clearly biding for time and are not saying what they know.”

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius described the reports of Navalny’s suspected poisoning as “very worrying” on Twitter.
“If confirmed, those responsible must face consequences. Closely following the situation, wishing him strength and speedy recovery,” he said.

Navalny isn’t the first opposition member and critic of Putin to be poisoned.

In 2006 investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya was assassinated as she returned to her Moscow home in 2006.

She had claimed in September 2004 that she had been poisoned with tea on a flight to Rostov as she attempted to reach Beslan, North Ossetia, to report on the school hostage crisis there.

And in 2006 a British inquiry found that ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko had his tea spiked at a London hotel bar by two Russian agents.

From his deathbed, Litvinenko insisted that Putin and the Kremlin were responsible for what happened. Moscow dismissed the inquiry as politically motivated.

In March 2018, former Russian agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned in the English city of Salisbury in what British authorities assessed to be a nerve agent attack carried out by Russian military intelligence officers. Russia has denied any role in the poisoning.

Vladimir Kara-Murza, a vocal critic of Putin, said he was poisoned in 2015 and again mysteriously fell gravely ill in 2017. The Kremlin denied any involvement in Kara-Murza’s illness.

With regards to Alexei Navalny, in an interview with CNN’s Matthew Chance in 2018, Navalny said speaking out in Russia entailed a serious risk.

“Anyone who is engaged in opposition activities in Russia can be arrested or killed,” he said. “This thought gives me no pleasure or joy, I assure you, but it is a simple choice: you can be silent or you can speak. Taking into account all the risks, I continue my work.”


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