New Delhi: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was admitted to a hospital Thursday and is on ventilator support after being reportedly poisoned, his spokesperson Kira Yarmysh said.
Navalny was on his way back to Moscow from Tomsk Thursday morning when he started feeling unwell and his flight had to make an emergency landing in Omsk city in the West-Siberian region of Russia.
“We suspect that Alexei was poisoned by something mixed into [his] tea. It was the only thing he drank since morning. Doctors are saying that the toxic agent absorbed faster through the hot liquid. Right now Alexei is unconscious,” Yarmysh, who is also the press secretary at the Anti Corruption Foundation, founded in 2011 by Navalny, tweeted.
A BBC report has however said it wasn’t still certain if Navalny had been poisoned, even though “natural poisoning” was one of the diagnoses being considered by doctors.
Yarmysh has since been giving updates via Twitter on Navalny’s condition. The police, she said, have been called to the hospital where he is admitted.
Later, she also claimed that the hospital was not cooperating.
“The evasive reaction of doctors only confirms that this is poisoning. Just two hours ago, they were ready to share any information, and now they are clearly playing for time and do not say what they know,” she tweeted.
Yarmysh also said she was told that the diagnosis would be provided to her “late towards the evening”, as Navalny’s condition remains stable but serious.
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Navalny, the oppn leader who couldn’t run for office
A long-time face of the opposition in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, Navalny is an anti-corruption campaigner who is known for his bold comments against the ruling party. He had called it a place of “crooks and thieves”, accused the president’s system of “sucking the blood out of Russia” and vowed to destroy the “feudal state being built”.
While he has become a known face of the opposition in Russia, having led nation-wide protests against the establishment, Navalny was not allowed to run for office after a Russian court found him guilty of embezzlement in 2013.
This isn’t the first time that Navalny has allegedly been poisoned. In 2019, he was taken to a hospital with “a swollen face, eye problems and rashes on his body”, which the doctor claimed might have been “contact dermatitis” due to “some toxic agent”.
Russia’s history of ‘poisoning’ opponents
Former Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko was hospitalised in 2002 after falling seriously ill in the middle of a presidential campaign against Moscow’s choice of candidate. He survived the poisoning, but was left with facial scars.
In 2004, Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko survived a “soup tainted with TCCD, an ingredient in Agent Orange 170,000 times more poisonous than cyanide”.
Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian spy and an opponent of Russian President Putin, died in 2006 after he consumed “radioactive polonium-210, believed to have been administered in a cup of tea”.
In March 2018, former Russian military intelligence officer-turned-double agent Sergei Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia were poisoned in England’s Salisbury. They recovered after being hospitalised for a long period of time.
Attacks have been made on businesspersons too. Businessmen Alexander Perepilichny had dropped dead in 2012 while jogging after consuming a soup that “contained gelsemium, a rare plant found only in remote parts of China and loaded with toxins related to strychnine”.
In 2004, journalist Anna Politkovskaya survived a poisoning, only to be shot dead outside her house in 2006.
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