Comatose Russian dissident visited by wife, aide in Germany

An empty stretcher is carried back into an ambulance which is believed to have transported Alexei Navalny at the emergency entrance of the Charite hospital in Berlin, Germany, Saturday, Aug.22, 2020. The dissident who is in a coma after a suspected poisoning has been transferred from the Siberian city of Omsk. Navalny is flown to Germany to receive treatment. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Alexi Navalnyโ€™s wife and a top aide visited him Sunday in a Berlin hospital where the comatose Russian dissident is being treated by German doctors after a suspected poisoning.

Navalny was flown to Germany on Saturday from Siberia after doctors determined he was stable enough to be brought to the capitalโ€™s Charitรฉ hospital for treatment.

After his arrival, hospital spokeswoman Manuela Zingl said the 44-year-old would be undergoing extensive diagnostic tests and that doctors wouldnโ€™t comment on his illness or treatment until they were able to evaluate the results.

On Sunday, Navalnyโ€™s wife, Yulia Navalnaya, and aide Leonid Volkov visited the Russian opposition leader in the hospital, making no comments to reporters.

Navalny, a politician and corruption investigator who is one of Russian President Vladimir Putinโ€™s fiercest critics, was admitted to an intensive care unit in the Siberian city of Omsk on Thursday. His supporters believe that tea he drank was laced with poison โ€” and that the Kremlin is behind both his illness and a delay in transferring him to Germany.

Navalny fell ill on a flight back to Moscow from Siberia on Thursday and was taken to the hospital after the plane made an emergency landing.

While his supporters and family members insist that Navalny was poisoned, doctors in Omsk have denied that, theorizing a metabolic disorder was the most likely diagnosis and that a drop in blood sugar may have caused Navalny to lose consciousness.

Russian health authorities on Saturday said that tests done so far havenโ€™t shown any poisons in his system.

When German specialists arrived aboard a plane equipped with advanced medical equipment Friday morning at his familyโ€™s behest, Navalnyโ€™s physicians in Omsk initially said he was too unstable to move. The dissidentโ€™s supporters suggested that was just a ploy to delay his departure until the poison was out of his system.

The Kremlin denied that resistance to the transfer was political, with spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying that it was purely a medical decision. However, the reversal to allow him to leave came as international pressure on Russiaโ€™s leadership mounted.

Navalnyโ€™s own doctor, Yaroslav Ashikhmin, who has treated him since 2013, said the politician has always been in good health, regularly went for medical checkups and didnโ€™t have any underlying illnesses that could have triggered his condition.

Like many other opposition politicians in Russia, Navalny has been frequently detained by law enforcement and harassed by pro-Kremlin groups. In 2017, he was attacked by several men who threw antiseptic in his face, damaging an eye.

Last year, Navalny was rushed to a hospital from jail where he was serving a sentence on charges of violating protest regulations. His team also suspected poisoning then. Doctors said he had a severe allergic reaction and sent him back to detention the following day.

If he was poisoned, it would not be the first time a prominent, outspoken Russian was targeted in such a way โ€” or the first time the Kremlin was accused of being behind it.

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