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Russian Putin critic Alexei Navalny in ICU; poison in tea suspected


Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is in a coma and on a ventilator.

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Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny was unconscious in intensive care after a suspected poisoning, his spokeswoman said Thursday. 

The anti-corruption campaigner and staunch critic of President Vladimir Putin fell ill on a flight back to Moscow from the Siberian city of Tomsk, Kira Yarmysh said on Twitter.

Yarmysh said Navalny drank tea that appeared to have been laced with a toxin. Russia’s state news agency, Tass, confirmed Navalny is being treated for poisoning at a hospital in Omsk, where his plane made an emergency landing. Citing the chief doctor at the hospital, Tass said Navalny was in grave condition. 

He was placed on a ventilator. 

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny speaks during a rally to support political prisoners in Moscow on Sept. 29, 2019. (Photo: Dmitri Lovetsky, AP)

Navalny, 44, is the effective face of political opposition to Putin and he has been in and out of jail for his activism against Russia’s longtime leader. 

Last year, Navalny claimed he was poisoned while serving a short jail sentence. Doctors said he had a severe allergic reaction to an unknown substance. He was left partially blind in one eye after a pro-Putin activist attacked him with a chemical in 2017. 

Navalny attempted to run against Putin in Russia’s 2018 presidential elections but was barred from participating over a fraud conviction he alleged was politically motivated.

Putin critics meet tragedy

Many of Putin’s opponents – journalists, politicians, former associates – have died in violent or suspicious circumstances, at home and abroad.

Britain’s top diplomat: Russia’s Vladimir Putin ordered ex-spy’s poisoning

The British government concluded that Russian military agents were behind the poisoning attack in 2018 in Britain against former Moscow spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Julia, in which Novichok, a highly toxic, military-grade nerve agent, was used. 

British authorities concluded that Alexander Litvinenko, another former Russian spy, was poisoned to death at the Kremlin’s behest in a London hotel in 2006. 

Anna Politkovskaya, an investigative journalist who was a critic of the Kremlin and exposed Russian human rights abuses, was murdered in 2006. 


Two of the five men convicted of killing Russian journalist and frequent Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya are sentenced to life in prison.
Video provided by Reuters

Boris Berezovsky, an oligarch who was once Putin’s right-hand man, was found hanged at his mansion outside London in 2013.

Russian opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza, a member of the pro-democracy group Open Russia, said attempts were made to poison him in 2015 and 2017.  

On both occasions, Kara-Murza nearly died. 

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In 2018, Nikolai Glushkov, a close associate of Berezovsky’s whom Moscow accused of embezzling money from Aeroflot, Russia’s state airline, was found strangled in his home near London. Glushkov’s name was on the top of an extradition list of 51 Russian citizens that Moscow described as “fugitives from justice” but “welcome” in Britain. The list was published by the Russian Embassy in London. 


Putin critic was flying from Siberia to Moscow when his plane made an emergency landing after he fell ill.

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That same year, Pyotr Verzilov, a member of the feminist performance art protest group Pussy Riot, was flown to a hospital in Germany after suffering what doctors said was a near-fatal poisoning by an unknown substance.

Art of dissent: Protesting Russia’s Putin with Pussy Riot

Navalny led nationwide protests against Putin, whose administration he described as full of “crooks and thieves” who are “sucking the blood out of Russia.”

The Kremlin denies using violence for political ends.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday that law enforcement would launch an investigation if the poisoning is confirmed. 

Videos circulating on social media show Navalny moaning in pain while aboard the flight. 

“This is Putin. Whether he gave the order or not, the fault lies entirely with him,” said Yarmysh, Navalny’s spokeswoman. 

“Unfortunately, the nature of these things in Russia is that the poisoning could have just as likely been committed by an agent of the state as by some ill-wisher doing what (this person) thinks the state wants without the government ordering or even knowing of the attack,” said Anna Arutunyan, author of “The Putin Mystique.”

“If the government was not involved, then its inability or lack of will to hold attackers accountable for past poisonings creates a culture where these kinds of things become possible – a culture beyond government control, which is just as bad,” she said. 

This year, two Russian doctors died and another was seriously injured in mysterious falls from hospital windows after they reportedly came under pressure over working conditions in the coronavirus pandemic.


Navalny joins thousands at rally in support of Telegram
Video provided by AFP

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