By Stefan J. Bos
Accompanied by a massive police escort, an ambulance carrying Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was taken to Berlin’s prestigious Charite hospital.
Two years ago, the same hospital successfully treated another Russian dissident who was allegedly poisoned by Russian agents.
Navalny arrived here following a safe landing at Berlin’s Tegel airport early on Saturday morning local time. Navalny’s medical evacuation from the Russian city of Omsk in southwestern Siberia was reportedly organized by the German Non-Governmental Organization ‘Cinema for Peace.’
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was among those who pushed for a speedy transfer for Navalny to Germany after he became suddenly ill on Thursday.
German government spokesperson Steffen Seibert said Chancellor Merkel was “appalled” by the suspected poisoning of Russian opposition leader Navalny. He added: “She has also explained that we if desired, will naturally allocate all possible medical help in German hospitals. In case it is desired. For that, we have already made the respective preparations.”
Navalny fell ill in what his supporters view as a suspected poisoning of his tea during a flight from Tomsk to Moscow on Thursday morning. The plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Omsk, where the Navalny was then rushed to a hospital.
He has since been kept in a coma, attached to a ventilator. The medical team that was treating him in Omsk had insisted that the opposition leader was too ill to be transported. However, they later said his condition was stable enough to get through a flight.
Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya, accused Russian doctors of deliberately delaying his departure. “We believe that the doctors are deliberately delaying so that the chemical substance in my husband Alexei’s metabolism has time to disappear,” she told reporters.
“That’s why they don’t let him leave the hospital. Alexei’s health situation is probably very bad, so we don’t believe the doctors in this hospital, and we demand that they hand my husband over.”
The Kremlin has denied he was poisoned. But the European Union has expressed concern. And the EU’s Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Nabila Massrali, said the 27-nation bloc demands an active investigation into the alleged poisoning of Alexei Navalny. “We are very worried about Alexei Navalny’s health following his suspected poisoning yesterday,” she said.
“We wish him a swift and full recovery. We expect a swift, independent, transparent investigation. And if confirmed, those responsible must be held to account,” the spokesperson added.
This wasn’t the first time the 44-year-old Russian opposition was targeted. Navalny, an outspoken lawyer, anti-corruption activist and vocal critic of President Vladimir Putin was doused with a bright green liquid in the Siberian city of Barnaul in 2017.
He was attacked by an unknown assailant who had pretended to shake his hand. Navalny revealed at the time that a doctor told him he had lost 80 percent of the sight in one eye after suffering a chemical burn from the green liquid.