Poisoned Putin critic ‘will return to Russia’

Alexei Navalny posts on Instagram from his hospital bed in Germany

Leading opposition figure Alexei Navalny will return to Russia his spokesperson has said on Twitter.

Writing on Twitter, Kira Yarmysh said: “It’s puzzling to me why anyone should think otherwise.”

Navalny posted a picture on Instagram for the first time since he was poisoned. He announced that he was no longer breathing through the assistance of a ventilator.

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.

Tests have shown he was poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent.

He received treatment at the Charité hospital in Berlin, Germany.

His team alleges he was poisoned on the orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin denies any involvement.