Alexei Navalny, Putin’s arch-rival and critic, has been released from hospital in Germany after recovering from a botched Novichok poisoning.
Doctors at Charite Hospital in Berlin say the politician’s health has “improved to such an extent that acute medical care can be discontinued” after 32 days in their care.
Medics said they “see a full recovery possible” given Navalny’s current condition, but warned it may take time for the poison’s long-term effects to become apparent.
Navalny has vowed – through his spokeswoman – to return to Russia to continue his opposition to Putin, but exactly when this will happen is unclear.
Alexei Navalny has been released from hospital in Germany after recovering from a failed Novichok poisoning (photo, Navalny in hospital yesterday with what appear to be scars on his neck, similar to the scars Yulia Skripal received after she was also poisoned with Novichok)
The news comes just over a month after Navalny fell ill after boarding a flight at Tomsk airport in Russia (photo left) and had to be taken off the plane in a coma (right)
Hours before the news broke, Navalny uploaded a photo of himself in the hospital to Instagram, revealing several prominent scars on his neck.
One, at the base of his windpipe, resembled the tracheotomy scar seen on Yulia Skripal – another vicitim from Novichok – when she first appeared in public after being poisoned.
A tracheostomy is a small incision used to insert a breathing tube into a patient’s lungs when they can no longer breathe on their own.
Next to the photo, Navalny posted a message mocking Putin and his suggestion – made in a telephone conversation with Emmanuel Macron – that Navalny could have swallowed the Novichok himself.
Putin said to his French counterpart, “ Navalny may have swallowed this poison himself. ‘A good theory. I think it deserves a thorough investigation.
‘I brewed Novichok in the kitchen. Silently sipped it from a bottle while on board the plane. Slipped into a coma.
Before that, I agreed with my wife, friends and colleagues that if the Ministry of Health insisted that I be taken to Germany for treatment, they should not agree to it under any circumstances.
“The ultimate goal of my devious plan was to die in a hospital in Omsk and end up in a morgue in Omsk. But Putin outsmarts me.
‘He’s no fool. As a result, I spent, like a fool, 18 days in a coma, but didn’t achieve what I wanted. The provocation failed. ‘
The news that Navalny has been released comes five days after he last shared an update on his condition showing that he could stand and walk.
In the photo, standing on a hospital stairwell, the 44-year-old revealed that he was initially unable to read or write after waking up from an 18-day coma he fell into after being on a plane on August 20. was poisoned in Russia.
“Until recently,” he wrote, “I didn’t recognize people or understand how to speak.”
It is not clear where Navalny will be until his eventual return to Russia.
The Kremlin continues to deny involvement in the poison plot and has asked Germany for evidence to support its conclusion of Novichok poisoning.
Russia has also asked to send agents to interview Navalny, despite NATO’s warnings that the state will ‘try’ to kill him again.
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny poses with wife Yulia and their children in German hospital where he is being treated after being poisoned with Novichok
Navalny arrives at Berlin’s Tegel airport after being flown in from Russia. Doctors at the German hospital say his condition is improving
The NATO chief insists Russia was behind the poisoning, saying there is “no other explanation,” while France and Sweden have also concluded that Novichok – a Russian-made nerve agent – was used in the attack.
Initially it was suggested by Navalny’s friends that he had been poisoned with a cup of tea drunk at Tomsk airport shortly before boarding the flight where he fell ill.
But his political allies now believe the officer was thrown into a water bottle from which he drank in a hotel.
After Navalny fell ill, the plane made an emergency landing in Omsk and was initially taken to hospital in the Siberian city.
The following weekend he was taken to Berlin by airlift, where doctors at Charite Hospital treated him with the antidote atropine and kept him in a medically induced coma.
On September 2, the German government announced that a military lab had found evidence of Novichok, the Soviet-era nerve agent targeting Sergei Skripal in Salisbury in 2018.
Germany said there was “unambiguous evidence” of Novichok, which has since been independently confirmed by laboratories in Sweden and France.
Navalny’s allies have pointed the finger at Vladimir Putin, saying that only the Russian government can use a military-grade nerve agent like Novichok.
Western leaders have pressured Russia to explain how Navalny was poisoned, but the Kremlin denies involvement and downplays Germany’s findings.
Despite international calls to Russia to conduct a transparent investigation or risk sanctions, it has not opened a criminal investigation.
“There are now very serious questions that only the Russian government can answer and must answer,” said Angela Merkel earlier this month, describing what happened to Navalny as “the attempted murder by poisoning one of Russia’s leading opposition members.”
While Berlin stopped directly blaming Russia, Navalny’s assistant Ivan Zhdanov said Novichok “ can only be used by the state ” – suggesting the GRU or FSB intelligence agencies were responsible.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said today that everyone would welcome Navalny’s recovery, adding that he was free to return to Russia.
Any citizen of the Russian Federation is free to leave and return to Russia. Of course, if a citizen of the Russian Federation recovers their health, everyone will be happy, ”he said.
Doctors at Charite Hospital (pictured Monday) say Navalny’s condition is improving two weeks after a German military lab discovered he had been poisoned with a nerve agent
Peskov said the Kremlin was open to clarify what happened to Navalny, but needed access to information about his case from Germany.
Moscow did not understand why Russia was not given the same access as French and Swedish laboratories, Peskov said.
A spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry previously went against the Russian line, saying that Russian medics had access to Navalny immediately after he fell ill.
Samples from Navalny have also been sent to the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague for additional testing.
The head of Russia’s foreign intelligence service claimed today that Navalny showed no signs of poisoning before being flown to Berlin for treatment.
“The fact is that the moment Alexei Navalny left Russian territory, there were no toxins in his system,” said Sergei Naryshkin.
“That’s why we have a lot of questions on the German side,” he told reporters.
Hospital medics said in their sixth official update on Monday that Navalny’s condition “continues to improve.”
The patient was successfully removed from mechanical ventilation. He is currently being mobilized and can leave his bed for a short while, ‘the statement said.
“The decision to disclose details of Mr. Navalny’s condition was made in consultation with the patient and his wife.”
Despite his recovery, doctors have said they cannot rule out long-term health problems associated with the poisoning.
EU diplomatic chief Josep Borrell today urged Russia to carry out a “full and transparent procedure” to investigate what happened to Navalny.
Navalny’s allies have pointed the finger at Russian President Vladimir Putin (pictured) after the opposition leader fell ill, but the Kremlin has rejected the claims.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has accused the West of using the incident as a pretext to introduce new sanctions against Moscow.
The apparent assassination attempt has sparked calls to demolish the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, a Kremlin flagship project to bring more Russian gas directly to Germany under the Baltic Sea.
Navalny has been a thorn in the Kremlin’s side for over a decade, exposing what he says to high-level corruption and mobilizing protests.
He has been repeatedly detained for organizing public rallies, charged with corruption investigations and barred from running in the 2018 presidential election.
The 44-year-old has also spent several periods in prison in recent years for organizing protests against the Kremlin.
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the arrests and detention of Navalny by Russia in 2012 and 2014 were politically motivated.
French leader Emmanuel Macron’s office said he had expressed “ deep concern about the criminal act ” in an appeal with Putin on Monday.
The Kremlin said Putin “underlined the inappropriateness of unfounded charges against the Russian side” and reiterated Russia’s demand that Germany hand over samples.