FIERCE PUTIN CRITIC APPARENTLY POISONED
MOSCOW — Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, one of Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critics, lay in a coma Friday at a Siberian hospital, the victim of what his allies said appeared to be a poisoning engineered by the Kremlin.
Navalny’s organization was scrambling to make arrangements to transfer him to Germany.
The 44-year-old Navalny fell ill on a flight back to Moscow from the Siberian city of Tomsk on Thursday and was taken to a hospital after the plane made an emergency landing in Omsk, Navalny’s spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, said on Twitter.
She told the Echo Moskvy radio station that he must have consumed poison in tea he drank at an airport cafe before boarding the plane early Thursday. During the flight,
Navalny started sweating and asked her to talk to him so that he could “focus on the sound of a voice.” He then went to the bathroom and lost consciousness, and has been in a coma and on a ventilator in grave condition ever since.
In a video statement released early Friday in Omsk, Yarmysh said Navalny remained in critical condition and she called on the hospital’s leadership “not to obstruct us from providing all necessary documents for his transfer.” It was not clear what the possible obstructions could be.
Other opposition figures were quick to suggest Kremlin involvement.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was necessary to wait for test results showing what caused Navalny’s condition, adding the authorities would consider a request to allow Navalny to leave Russia.