“We suspect Alexei was poisoned by something mixed with his tea. It was the only thing he had drunk since the morning, ”tweeted Navalny’s press secretary Kira Yarmysh.
KYIV – Alexei Navalny, Russian opposition leader and eternal enemy of the Kremlin, is in a coma after being poisoned Thursday morning, his press secretary Kira Yarmysh said.
Navalny, 44, a staunch critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, fell ill on a flight from the Siberian city of Tomsk to Moscow, Yarmysh said.
“The plane made an urgent landing in Omsk. Alexei has toxic poisoning. Right now we are going to the hospital,” Yarmysh tweeted.
Russian News Agency TASS reported that the Omsk Emergency Hospital had confirmed Navalny’s admission and that his condition was serious.
“We suspect Alexei was poisoned by something mixed with his tea. It was the only thing he had drunk since morning, ” Yarmysh wrote in another tweet. “Doctors say that the toxic agent is absorbed more quickly by the hot liquid. At the moment, Alexei is unconscious.
Yarmysh said Navalny was in a coma and placed on a ventilator in an intensive care unit. Anatoly Kalinichenko, the Omsk doctor treating Navalny, told reporters that he was in stable but serious condition, from a video tweeted by Yarmysh. Kalinichenko declined to confirm whether Navalny was in a coma or to give details of his diagnosis.
Photos and videos posted online captured the sequence of events.
On Instagram, a man named Pavel Lebedev, who was on the same flight as Navalny, posted a photo of the opposition leader sipping tea at Tomsk airport before take off.
In one video Lebedev filmed aboard the flight which was also posted on the Mash Telegram channel, a man said to be Navalny can be heard screaming. Lebedev wrote on Instagram that Navalny went to the plane’s bathroom after take-off and never came out.
A second video posted by Mash appears to show a motionless Navalny loaded on a stretcher after the plane lands in Omsk.
A local media published a video to be put in an ambulance on the tarmac at Omsk airport.
Navalny, lawyer and prominent anti-Corruption activist, was a thorn on the side of Putin and the face of the Russian opposition for a decade. During this period, he was attacked, beaten and imprisoned for various offenses, including for calling for unauthorized demonstrations and embezzlement. He denounced all charges against him as political.
In July 2019, while serving a 30-day prison sentence for staging unauthorized protests, he fell ill and was diagnosed with “contact dermatitis”. But he said he thought he had been poisoned. His personal physician also said he may have been exposed to an unknown “toxic agent”.
In June of this year, Navalny described a controversial vote on the changes to the constitution of Russia which were pushed by Putin as a “coup” and a “violation of the constitution”. The changes, which were approved in a national referendum, allow Putin to serve two more terms and rule the country until 2036.