Russian doctors have said gravely ill Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny could be flown to Germany to receive medical attention after the politician’s allies accused the Russian authorities of deliberately trying to stop his evacuation.
- Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny fell ill during a flight on Thursday and has been in a coma since
- Local doctors said he had a metabolic disease and was too ill to fly to Germany for treatment
- On Friday evening they backed down after German doctors were given access to Mr Navalny
Mr Navalny, a campaigner against corruption and a long-time opponent of President Vladimir Putin and his lieutenants, collapsed on a passenger jet on Thursday after drinking tea that his allies believe was laced with poison.
German doctors flew in to evacuate Mr Navalny, 44, at the request of his wife and supporters who said they feared authorities might try to cover up clues as to how he fell ill, and said the hospital treating him was badly equipped.
Russian medical staff at the hospital in Omsk, Siberia, initially said on Friday that Mr Navalny’s condition had improved slightly overnight but that he was in too unstable a state to be safely transported out of the country.
But on Friday evening they said they would not object to him being moved after the German doctors were granted access to Mr Navalny and said they thought he was fit to travel.
A senior doctor at the hospital, Anatoly Kalinichenko, said the hospital could help transport Mr Navalny to the airport and that he would be moved within several hours.
The decision came after Mr Navalny’s wife Yulia sent a letter to the Kremlin directly appealing for it to intervene and grant permission for him to be allowed to fly out.
Alexander Murakhovsky, the head doctor at the hospital, said earlier that Mr 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 his clothes and fingers and that doctors did not believe he had been poisoned.
Mr Navalny fell ill while on a domestic flight, and he was taken on a stretcher off the plane and rushed to hospital after it made an emergency landing in Omsk.
Mr Navalny has been the biggest thorn in the Kremlin’s side for more than a decade, exposing what he says is high-level graft while mobilising crowds of young protesters.
He has been repeatedly detained for organising public meetings and rallies and sued over his investigations into corruption.
Last year Mr Navalny was hospitalised for a “severe allergic reaction” while in prison.
He was barred from running in a presidential election in 2018.