By Stefan J. Bos
Berlin’s Charité hospital says Alexei Navalny’s condition has improved, and he is being taken off mechanical ventilation.
But the hospital warned that it remains too early to see the potential long-term effects of what it calls the severe poisoning of the Russian opposition leader.
The 44-year-old Navalny had been in the Charité hospital since he was airlifted to Germany after falling ill on a Russian domestic flight last month.
Garman government spokesman Steffen Seibert says several European laboratories have confirmed Germany|s findings that Navalny was poisoned in Russia with the nerve agent Novichok. “So France and Sweden, special laboratories in those two countries have carried out the tests and have confirmed the German verification,” spokesman Seibert explained.
“It means we now have three independent laboratories that concluded the substance that triggered Mr. Navalny’s poisoning is a warfare nerve agent of the Novichok group,” he added. The Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons also wants samples from Navalny tested at its designated labs, German Seibert said.
Moscow counters it has seen no evidence that Navalny was poisoned and called the allegations part of a Western smear campaign against Russia. Amid these tensions, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov canceled a planned trip to Berlin for talks on Tuesday, with his ministry citing a change in his German counterpart’s schedule.
Despite the standoff, Alexei Navalny has reportedly told a German prosecutor that he plans to return to Russia as soon as he has recovered.
He will return to a nation where his supporters made some gains in this weekend’s regional elections. Initial results showed his allies won in parts of Siberia, where he focused his attention before he fell ill on August 20.
They won majorities on city councils in Novosibirsk and Tomsk, the city where Navalny was allegedly poisoned while boarding a flight to Moscow.
But pro-Kremlin politicians backed by President Vladimir Putin won, or were heading, for most wins. They will serve as the governors of more than a dozen regions.
The results confirmed the overall dominance of United Russia, which backs Putin. This weekend’s elections were seen as a popularity test for the Kremlin ahead of next year’s parliamentary vote. Putin has faced increased protests and other opposition over his nation’s economic and social turmoil and endemic corruption.