Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny
People gather outside a hospital, where Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny receives medical treatment in Omsk, Russia August 21, 2020. Image Credit: Reuters

Moscow: Update:

The wife of the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Friday made a direct appeal to President Vladimir Putin to permit her husband's medical evacuation to Germany.

Yulia Navalnaya posted a letter on Navalny's Twitter account she had signed addressed to Putin, saying: "I officially apply to you with a demand for permission to take Alexei Navalny to Germany."


The German government said Friday it was in touch with Moscow to find a solution to Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny's "humanitarian emergency" after he suffered a suspected poisoning and his doctors refused to allow an evacuation.

"We are already in contact with Russian authorities so that we can contribute to a professional and transparent solution to this humanitarian emergency," foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Adebahr told reporters in Berlin.

A medical plane chartered by a German NGO, the Cinema For Peace foundation, is waiting in the Siberian city of Omsk to airlift Navalny to a Berlin hospital for treatment.

But doctors treating the anti-corruption campaigner and Kremlin critic said he was too "unstable" to be moved.

They also said there was no evidence to back up claims he was poisoned.

But Navalny's spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said the refusal to transport him was a ploy to hide the poisoning and put his life at risk.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is "concerned" about Navalny's health, her spokesman Steffen Seibert said, adding that German hospitals are ready to welcome him.

"The main priority is to save his life," he said.

The Cinema for Peace Foundation, which two years ago brought a poisoned Russian activist to Berlin for treatment, said it was sending an air ambulance to pick up poisoned opposition politician Alexei Navalny on Thursday evening.

"For humanitarian reasons, at Pussy Riots Pyotr Verzilov's request, we will send at midnight an air ambulance with medical equipment and specialists with which Navalny can be brought to Germany," the Foundation said, adding that Berlin's Charite hospital was ready to treat him.

Navalny, 44, was in intensive care and on an artificial lung ventilator, spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said on social media.

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Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny was in a coma in a Siberian hospital on Thursday after drinking a cup of tea that his spokeswoman said she believed was laced with poison.

Navalny, 44, was in intensive care and on an artificial lung ventilator, spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said on social media.

A fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin, Navalny started feeling ill when returning to Moscow from Tomsk in Siberia by plane on Wednesday morning, Yarmysh said.

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

She did not say who she believed may have poisoned Navalny, but said police had been called to the hospital.

However, one of the doctors there said it was not certain that he had been poisoned. Doctor Anatoly Kalinichenko said “natural poisoning” was one of several diagnoses being considered and tests were being carried out.

Navalny, a lawyer and anti-corruption activist, has served many stints in jail in recent years for organising anti-Kremlin protests and has been physically attacked in the street by pro-government activists.

He has helped investigations into what he has said are outrageous examples of official corruption.

Russia holds regional elections next month and Navalny and his allies have been preparing for them, trying to increase support for candidates which they back.

Tatyana Shakirova, a spokeswoman for the regional health ministry in Omsk, said: “We confirm that Alexei Navalny has been hospitalised in Omsk and that doctors assess his condition as serious...Doctors are doing everything possible to stabilise his condition.” “The poisoning version is one of several versions being considered. It’s not possible now to say what the reason was.” Passenger Pavel Lebedev posted an account of what he saw on social media.

“At the start of the flight he 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.” Navalny had drunk a cup of tea at a Tomsk airport cafe before boarding his flight, Yarmysh said. The Interfax news agency quoted the cafe’s owners as saying they were checking CCTV cameras to try to establish what had happened.

Navalny’s plane later made an emergency landing in Omsk so that he could be rushed to hospital. Footage posted on social media by a fellow passenger showed a motionless Navalny being stretchered into an ambulance by medics.

S7, the airline he was travelling with, said Navalny had started feeling very ill soon after take-off and the captain had decided to make an emergency landing at a nearby airport.

He had not eaten or drunk anything on board, it said.

Yarmysh 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.

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Russia’s arrests and detention of Navalny in 2012 and 2014 were politically-motivated and violated his human rights, a ruling Moscow called questionable.