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Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was 'fairly likely' poisoned, Germany says

  • Written by CNN/Reuters
  • Published in World News
Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was 'fairly likely' poisoned according to doctors in Germany where he is being treated. Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was 'fairly likely' poisoned according to doctors in Germany where he is being treated.
Berlin (CNN) August 24, 2020 - The German government says it is "fairly likely" that Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was poisoned and will therefore need special protection.

 Navalny is being treated in a Berlin hospital after falling ill on a flight from Siberia last week. He was transferred to the German capital from the Siberian city of Omsk on Saturday morning.

"We are dealing with a patient who, it is fairly likely, was poisoned," Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, told journalists during a press briefing on Monday. "Because there is a certain probability of a poison attack, protection is necessary," Seibert said.
 
Navalny's spokesperson Kira Yarmysh said last week that he fell sick from suspected poisoning on a flight to Moscow from the Siberian city of Tomsk.
 
navalny ambulance460Navalny, a critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been receiving treatment at Berlin's Charite Hospital which, according to Seibert, will be providing updates on the opposition leader's condition. Jaka Bizilj, chairman for Cinema for Peace Foundation, which organized the medical evacuation, told CNN on Saturday that Navalny was in a "stable condition."
 
The Siberian hospital that had previously been treating Navalny on Friday rejected claims he had been poisoned -- even as his wife said the doctors there could not be trusted.
 
On Friday, Anatoly Kalinichenko, the deputy chief physician at the Russian hospital where Navalny was being treated told a news conference that no poisons were found in Navalny's blood or urine. "We don't believe that the patient suffered poisoning," Kalinichenko told local journalists.
"Poisons or traces of their presence in the body have not been identified. Probably, the diagnosis of 'poisoning' remains somewhere in the back of our minds. But we do not believe that the patient suffered poisoning," he added.<

Navalny, a long-time opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin and campaigner against corruption, was flown on Saturday for treatment in Germany.

Navalny, 44, was in an induced coma when he was evacuated from the Siberian city of Omsk, but there has been no word yet from the Charite hospital in Berlin on his condition.

“If he gets through this unharmed, which we all hope, then he’ll certainly be out of the political arena for at least one, two months,” Bizilj was quoted as saying.

He said that Navalny had coped well with the flight, but added this did not change his “worrying overall situation”.

Navalny’s team had been due to host a briefing via YouTube on Sunday evening to discuss “everything we know so far about Alexei’s poisoning”, but subsequently cancelled it saying they were not ready, press secretary Kira Yarmysh and campaign HQ head Leonid Volkov wrote on Twitter.

Navalny was under intense police surveillance in preceding days, a Russian tabloid newspaper cited law enforcement sources as saying.

Before he collapsed on a flight during a trip to Siberia Navalny was followed by plainclothes FSB officers and his movements were closely monitored via CCTV, the report in the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper said.

Citing security service sources, the paper described the timeline of his trip before he fell ill down to the number of rooms his team booked in a local hotel and the fact that Navalny chose not to sleep in the room booked under his name.

An apartment rented for him by one of his supporters was discovered by police surveillance, the paper reported, when a sushi takeaway was ordered to the address by one of Navalny’s supporters.

“The scale of the surveillance does not surprise me at all, we were perfectly aware of it before,” Yarmysh wrote on Twitter.  “What is surprising, however, is that (security service sources) did not shy away from describing it.”

In its report, the Moskovsky Komsomolets paper cited security sources as saying that their surveillance of Navalny’s movements did not reveal any suspicious contacts that could be related to his illness.

Security services believe that if Navalny was poisoned, the incident took place either in the airport or on the plane, the newspaper wrote.

However the paper said they are still awaiting results of laboratory tests of samples taken by police from all the places Navalny and his team visited on their trip, including samples of the air.

Initial results are expected on Monday, with results from tests for radioactive material due later in the week, the paper said. It did not say whether or not these would be made public.

Doctors at the hospital in Omsk where Navalny was treated before his evacuation to Germany have said they do not believe he was poisoned. They diagnosed him with a metabolic disease that may have been caused by low blood sugar.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday that it was still unclear what caused Navalny to fall ill. He had previously said that any poisoning would need to be confirmed by laboratory tests and that doctors were doing everything they could to help Navalny.

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