Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny airlifted to Germany; condition stable after landing

WION Web Team
Moscow, Russia Published: Aug 22, 2020, 07:36 AM(IST)

Alexei Navalny airlifted to Germany Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

Navalny, one of President Vladimir Putin's fiercest critics, fell ill earlier this week while flying back to Moscow from the Siberian city of Tomsk where he had met allies ahead of regional elections next month. He was taken on a stretcher, motionless, from the plane and rushed to hospital after it made an emergency landing in Omsk.

An ambulance aircraft carrying gravely ill Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny landed at Berlin's Tegel airport on Saturday after he was evacuated from the Siberian city of Omsk and brought to Germany for treatment of a suspected poisoning.

German doctors had flown to Omsk on Friday to evacuate Navalny -- after a day-long standoff over his medical evacuation -- at the request of his wife and allies who said that the hospital treating him was badly equipped.

"The condition of Navalny during the flight and after landing is stable," Slovenian-born activist and filmmaker Jaka Bizilj told German mass tabloid Bild.

Navalny was expected to be rushed to Berlin's Charite hospital, about 10 km (6.2 miles) from Tegel airport.

Kira Yarmysh, Navalny's spokeswoman, said the opposition politician's wife Yulia was on board the evacuation flight.

Navalny, one of President Vladimir Putin's fiercest critics, fell ill earlier this week while flying back to Moscow from the Siberian city of Tomsk where he had met allies ahead of regional elections next month. He was taken on a stretcher, motionless, from the plane and rushed to hospital after it made an emergency landing in Omsk.

Doctors treating him in Omsk initially refused to let Navalny leave but reversed course after his family and staff demanded he be allowed to travel to Germany.

Navalny's life was not in immediate danger, he was in an induced coma and his brain was in a stable condition, the medical staff at a hospital in the Siberian city of Omsk said.

German doctors flew in to evacuate Navalny at the request of his wife and allies who said they feared authorities might try to cover up clues as to how he fell ill and that the hospital treating him was badly equipped.

Also read | Doctors agree to evacuate Navalny from Siberian hospital on relatives' request

Navalny's wife Yulia earlier sent a letter to the Kremlin directly appealing for it to intervene and grant permission for him to be allowed to be flown out.

Navalny's spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh posted a picture on Twitter of him being lifted into the plane on a covered stretcher and said his wife Yulia was with him.

Alexander Murakhovsky, the head doctor at the hospital, said earlier that Navalny had been diagnosed with a metabolic disease that may have been caused by low blood sugar. He said traces of industrial chemical substances had been found on Navalny's clothes and fingers and that doctors did not believe he had been poisoned.

Navalny is the latest in a long line of Kremlin critics who have fallen seriously ill or died in apparent poisonings.

Navalny has been a thorn in the Kremlin's side for more than a decade, exposing what he says is high-level graft and mobilising crowds of young protesters.

He has been repeatedly detained for organising public meetings and rallies and sued over his investigations into corruption. He was barred from running in a presidential election in 2018.

Also read | 'No trace' of poison found in Putin critic Alexei Navalny's tests: Russian hospital doctor

The air ambulance was dispatched to take Navalny to Berlin after Chancellor Angela Merkel extended an offer of treatment.

European Union leaders including Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have voiced concern for Navalny, who has faced repeated physical attacks and prosecutions in more than a decade of opposition to Russian authorities.

(with inputs from agencies)

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