Leading Putin foe Alexei Navalny ‘is poisoned’ and rushed to hospital


Alexei Navalny, Vladimir Putin‘s arch-rival and critic, has been rushed unconscious to hospital after apparently being poisoned.

The lawyer and anti-corruption campaigner fell ill on a flight from Tomsk to Moscow, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing in the Siberian city of Omsk.

Video shows the Navalny being stretchered from the aircraft into a waiting ambulance before being rushed to intensive care.

More footage taken on board the plane reveals he was screaming in pain before falling unconscious. 

Navalny is now in a coma and hooked up to a ventilator, with doctors saying his condition is ‘grave’, press secretary Kira Yarmysh revealed.

Alexei Navalny, arch political rival and critic of Valdimir Putin has been rushed to hospital after apparently being poisoned (pictured, Navalny is taken into an ambulance)

Kira Yarmysh, Navalny's press secretary, says she suspects poison was added to a cup of tea that he was pictured drinking at the airport

Kira Yarmysh, Navalny’s press secretary, says she suspects poison was added to a cup of tea that he was pictured drinking at the airport

Yarmysh said she suspects poison was added to tea he was pictured drinking at the airport, in an image widely circulated on social media.

Pavel Lebedev, a fellow passenger, posted an account of what he saw on social media.

‘At the start of the flight he went to the toilet and didn’t come back. He started feeling really sick. They struggled to bring him round and he was screaming in pain.’

How Alexei Navalny has been punished for defying Putin

2011: Navalny is arrested and jailed for 15 days for ‘defying an official’ after leading protests in Moscow

2012: Jailed for 15 days after leading an anti-Putin protest in the wake of presidential elections. His apartment is subsequently raided, and some of his private emails posted online

2013: Put on trial for embezzlement, amid claims he tried to steal wood from a state-owned company. He is convicted and sentenced to five years, but allowed out on bail. The conviction is subsequently overturned 

2014: Placed under house arrest, again charged with embezzlement alongside brother Oleg. Again, the conviction is overturned

2017: He is re-convicted in the first corruption case, and ordered to repay millions of rubles of compensation in the second

While leaving his office, a pro-Kremlin activist throws green disinfectant dye in his face, partially blinding him

2018: Arrested twice for leading protests against presidential elections he was barred from running in. Jailed for a total of 50 days in jail

2019: Arrested and jailed for a total of 40 days for leading protests during Moscow Duma elections. While in jail he was rushed to hospital, suffering from what medics called an allergic reaction. Others believe he was poisoned 

2020: Navalny is rushed unconscious to hospital and placed on a ventilator after falling ill on a flight. His allies say he was poisoned 

The manager of the Vienna Cafe at Tomsk airport, where the image was taken, said the staff member who served Navalny the drink now cannot be found.

The cafe has been closed and an investigation is now underway, the manager said.  

Medics have given a preliminary diagnosis of ‘toxic poisoning’, but no test results have yet come back.

Police and FSB agents have flooded the hospital where Navalny is being treated, and Yarmysh said medics were now refusing to discuss his condition or possible causes.

Navalny’s own personal physician is being urgently flown to Ormsk to help oversee his treatment.  

Deputy chief doctor Anatoly Kalinichenko, who works at Ormsk hospital, told the media: ‘Alexei is on a ventilator, his condition is grave but stable. 

‘There are now several diagnoses that are being clarified. During today, the diagnosis will be determined. 

‘There is no certainty the cause is poisoning, but this is one of the versions. I cannot tell you more details because of medical secrecy.’  

Earlier, as Navalny was being taken to hospital, Yarmysh posted from his ambulance: ‘We assume that Alexei was poisoned with something mixed into the tea. It was the only thing that he drank in the morning.

‘Doctors say the toxin was absorbed faster through the hot liquid. Alexey is now unconscious.’

She added: ‘This morning Navalny was returning to Moscow from Tomsk. On the flight he started feeling ill.

‘The plane made an emergency landing in Omsk.’

Navalny is seen as Putin’s most charismatic and potentially dangerous foe.

He has faced constant legal attacks and has served a number of jail sentences.

His anti-corruption organisation was dubbed a ‘foreign agent’ by the Russian authorities.

Police have conducted repeated raids on his offices, and this is not the first time that Navalny has suffered a physical attack.

In 2017 he was left partially blind in one eye after attackers threw green dye used as a disinfectant at his face outside his office.

In August last year he suffered rashes and his face became swollen while he was in a police detention centre serving a short term for calling for illegal protests. 

He was taken to hospital where doctors said he had suffered an allergic reaction but Navalny asked for an investigation into poisoning. 

Navalny (file image) was on a flight from Tomsk to Moscow when he suddenly fell ill, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing in Omsk

Navalny (file image) was on a flight from Tomsk to Moscow when he suddenly fell ill, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing in Omsk

Navalny was unconscious when he was taken from the plane, and had to be put on a ventilator. He is now in a coma, and doctors say his condition is 'grave'

Navalny was unconscious when he was taken from the plane, and had to be put on a ventilator. He is now in a coma, and doctors say his condition is ‘grave’

‘He was poisoned in the police detention centre. I’m sure that now the same thing happened. It’s different symptoms, evidently a different drug,’ Yarmysh said.

She told the radio station that she met Navalny to go to the airport in the Siberian city of Tomsk on Thursday morning when he seemed ‘absolutely fine.’

‘He only drank black tea in the airport,’ she said. 

‘Straight after takeoff he quite quickly lost consciousness.’ 

Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko has blamed Navalny for fermenting the protests in his country, but without providing proof.

In one recent expose, Navalny claimed Putin’s ecology chief Svetlana Radionova was linked to a luxury property deal and that her wealth could not be explained.

Navalny has vowed his aim is to topple Putin and replace him as president.

His press secretary explained that after the plane took off from Tomsk, Navalny, 44, ‘said that he was feeling unwell and asked me for a napkin, he was sweating.

‘He asked me to speak to him because he needed to concentrate on the sound of the voice. I was talking to him, then they brought a trolley with water. 

‘I asked if water would help, he said no. Then he went to the toilet, and after that he fainted.’ 

ALEXSANDER LITVINENKO TO SERGEI SKRIPAL: HIGH-PROFILE KREMLIN CRITICS WHO WERE POISONED 

Alexei Navalny is just the latest in a long line of Kremlin critics and Russian dissidents who have found themselves falling victim to poisonings.

Perhaps the most high-profile case was that of Alexsander Litvinenko, a former FSB agent who defected and came to live in the UK, where he became a harsh critic of Putin – allegedly coining the phrase ‘Mafia state’.

In 2006 he was rushed to hospital and later diagnosed with poisoning using radioactive isotope polonium-210, a rare radioactive material that is thought to have been slipped into his tea at a sushi restaurant in London.

Alexsander Litvinenko fell ill in November 2006 after radioactive polonium-210 was slipped into his tea at a sushi restaurant in London. He died from radiation poisoning three weeks later (pictured in hospital shortly before his death)

Alexsander Litvinenko fell ill in November 2006 after radioactive polonium-210 was slipped into his tea at a sushi restaurant in London. He died from radiation poisoning three weeks later (pictured in hospital shortly before his death)

It took Litvinenko more than three weeks to die from the slow-acting poison, which removed all of his hair and left him emaciated, which is how he appeared in an infamous photo taken in hospital shortly before his death.

The UK government blamed Russia for the killing, and a public inquiry in 2015 resulted in a verdict that his death was the result of an FSB operation that was personally approved by Vladimir Putin and Nikolai Patrushev, then head of the FSB.

In 2018, another former FSB agent turned defector – Sergei Skripal, and his daughter Yulia – were also poisoned in the UK, using a rare nerve agent called Novichok which was developed by the Russian state.

It is thought that a pair of Russian GRU agents, later identified as Alexander Mishkin and Anatoliy Chepiga, used a perfume bottle to smear the agent on the door handle of Skripal’s home in Salisbury, where the pair were taken ill.

The pair were rushed to hospital in critical condition and spent several weeks in a coma before making a recovery and being released. Skripal has not been seen in public since, but daughter Yulia held a video interview with a tracheotomy scar on her neck, caused by medics cutting open her windpipe to hook her up to a ventilator.

The poisoning inadvertently killed Dawn Sturgess, after her partner Charlie Rowley found the perfume bottle containing the poison in a bin and gave it to her, which she sprayed on her wrist. Rowley also fell ill, but survived. 

Sergei Skripal and daughter Yulia were poisoned with nerve agent Novichok at their home in Salisbury in 2018. The pair were taken to hospital in a coma but survived

Sergei Skripal and daughter Yulia were poisoned with nerve agent Novichok at their home in Salisbury in 2018. The pair were taken to hospital in a coma but survived

Navalny has pledged to topple Vladimir Putin - who recently passed a law allowing him to rule for another eight years - from power and take his place

Navalny has pledged to topple Vladimir Putin – who recently passed a law allowing him to rule for another eight years – from power and take his place

It was later reported that Navalny in intensive care had regained consciousness but was ‘struggling to speak’.

Alexander Murakhovsky, the chief doctor treating Navalny, assessed his condition as ‘grave’.

Separately, TVK citing the health ministry in Omsk reported that he remained unconscious.

This contradicted an earlier report that he had come round. Navalny coordinator in Tomsk, Kseniya Fadeeva, told Open Media: ‘He was completely fine before he drank tea at Tomsk airport.’

Vyacheslav Gimadi, a lawyer with Navalny’s foundation, said the team is requesting Russia’s Investigative Committee open a criminal probe.

‘There is no doubt that Navalny was poisoned because of his political stance and activity,’ Gimadi said in a tweet on Thursday.

Navalny is not the first opposition figure to come down with a mysterious poisoning. 

In 2018, Pyotr Verzilov, a member of Russia’s protest group Pussy Riot, ended up in an intensive care unit after a suspected poisoning and had to be flown to Berlin for treatment. 

Opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza was hospitalized with poisoning symptoms twice – in 2015 and 2017. 

Both said they believed they were poisoned for their political activity.

THE THORN IN PUTIN’S SIDE: WHO IS ALEXEI NAVALNY? 

Born in 1976 to mother and father who owned a basket-weaving factory south of Moscow, Alexei Navalny spent his childhood between Russia and Ukraine, where his father’s family live.

He graduated with a law degree from the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia in 1998, and then went on to study finance.

While politically active in opposition circles from 2000, Navalny first first rose to prominence in 2008 when he purchased stocks in major state-owned Russian companies, and began asking awkward questions at board meetings about their finances.

He also began blogging about alleged corruption within the firms, and linking it back to officials in Vladimir Putin’s government.

In 2010 he was awarded a scholarship to the World Fellows Program at Yale University, and spent a semester in the US.

Returning to Russia in 2011, he urged followers of his blog and social media to vote against Putin’s United Russia party in parliamentary elections.

The party won, but with a much-reduced majority and the victory was tarnished by allegations of vote-rigging and anti-corruption protests.

Navalny went on to lead mass demonstrations against Putin in the lead-up to the 2012 presidential elections, and was jailed several times in the process.

Putin easily won the election, and shortly afterwards Russia’s Investigative Committee launched a probe into Navalny.

In 2013 he was charged with embezzlement, convicted, and sentenced to five years in jail – a punishment he condemned as political. 

To the surprise of many, he was released on bail so that he could run in the Moscow mayoral elections against Putin ally Sergey Sobyanin as head of the newly-formed Progress Party.

Navalny is pictured in Tomsk with his supporters, shortly before he fell ill

Navalny is pictured in Tomsk with his supporters, shortly before he fell ill

Navalny lost the vote, garnering 27 per cent of ballots, but this was seen as an unexpected success since he was effectively banned from appearing on TV. 

The following year Navalny was placed under house arrest, before his embezzlement convictions were overturned by Russia’s Supreme Court following a similar ruling by the EU.

In 2016, he announced his intention to run against Putin in the 2018 election, prompting Russia’s state prosecutors to re-try him on the corruption charges.

He was subsequently convicted, meaning he was automatically barred from running in the election. 

In 2017 he was left partially blind in one eye after attackers threw green dye used as a disinfectant at his face outside his office.

In August last year he suffered rashes and his face became swollen while he was in a police detention centre serving a short term for calling for illegal protests. 

He was taken to hospital where doctors said he had suffered an allergic reaction but Navalny asked for an investigation into poisoning.



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