The Russian doctors treating prominent Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, in a coma after an alleged poisoning, have changed their minds and agreed to let him be flown to Germany for treatment.
They had initially argued that he was too ill to be transferred, but German medics who had been allowed to visit Navalny at hospital concluded otherwise.
Navalny gained prominence as a critic of corruption and of the government led by President Vladimir Putin. He had sought to challenge Putin in the 2018 presidential election, only to be barred by the country’s electoral commission over a conviction for corruption. The trial had been deemed unfair by the European Court of Human Rights and the conviction was overturned by the Russian Supreme Court, only for a lower court to repeat its sentence.
He was on a flight from the Siberian city of Tomsk to Moscow when he fell ill, and the flight was subsequently diverted to Omsk. Doctors at the Omsk hospital have insisted that no poison was found in his body, but Navalny’s allies suspect he was given poisoned tea.
Consequently, the Berlin-based Cinema for Peace Foundation organised an air ambulance to bring Navalny to the Charité Hospital in the German capital. At a press conference in Berlin, Navalny’s aide Leonid Volkov said that doctors at the Omsk hospital had initially started to facilitate the transfer, only to stop the process abruptly.
Navalny’s wife Yulia had written to Putin, asking for her husband’s medical transfer to be permitted.