Ailing Putin critic 'stable' on arrival in Berlin

Ailing Putin critic 'stable' on arrival in Berlin

Air ambulance transfer of Alexei Navalny follows standoff with Russian doctors

A police officer stands guard outside Charite Hospital Complex in Berlin, where Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is expected to be treated. (Reuters Photo)
A police officer stands guard outside Charite Hospital Complex in Berlin, where Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is expected to be treated. (Reuters Photo)

BERLIN: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is in stable condition after arriving in Berlin by air ambulance on Saturday following a suspected poisoning, according to the German NGO that chartered the flight.

"Navalny’s condition is stable,” said Jaka Bizilj, the head of Cinema for Peace after the flight touched down at Tegel airport in Berlin.

The arrival of the air ambulance followed a day-long standoff over Navalny’s medical evacuation.

Ambulances waiting at the airport transferred him to Charite Hospital for treatment.

The 44-year-old lawyer and anti-corruption campaigner, one of President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critics, went into a coma after falling suddenly ill on Thursday while on a plane to Moscow that had to make an emergency landing in Omsk.

Aides say they believe Navalny was poisoned, apparently by a cup of tea at the airport, and blamed Putin, though Russian doctors said tests showed no trace of any poison.

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

As the plane left Omsk at around 8am local time, Navalny’s wife Yulia posted a picture on Instagram of him being carried on a covered stretcher and thanked supporters for their “persistence”.

“Without your support, we wouldn’t have been able to take him!” she wrote.

When the ambulance arrived at the Omsk Emergency Hospital No. 1 early Saturday, masked medics put Navalny inside on a stretcher.

Russian doctors had said he was in a coma and breathing through a ventilator in a grave state.

They said tests did not find any trace of poison, however, that Navalny appeared to have a “metabolic disorder” and to have suffered a sharp drop in blood sugar levels.

The regional interior ministry said police detected an industrial chemical after swabbing Navalny and his luggage, although doctors said this would not have caused his condition.

The air ambulance arrived in Omsk on Friday morning but Russian doctors initially said Navalny was too “unstable” to be moved.

They announced on Friday evening they had agreed to let him be transferred after German doctors examined him and the Cinema for Peace foundation said it was “willing and able” to transport him to Berlin.

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

He has made many enemies with his anti-corruption investigations, which often reveal the lavish lifestyles of Russia’s elite and attract millions of views online.

His wife told journalists that she wanted Navalny to be “in an independent hospital, whose doctors we trust”.

Yarmysh tweeted that “the battle for Alexei’s life and health is just beginning … but at least now we’ve taken the first step.”

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.

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