Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny remains in an induced coma in a Berlin hospital after suspected poisoning, but doctors say his condition is stable and his symptoms are improving.
Navalny, a corruption investigator and one of Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critics, fell ill on a flight back to Moscow from Siberia last week and was taken to a hospital in the Siberian city of Omsk after an emergency landing of the plane.
He was transferred over the weekend to Charité hospital in Berlin, where doctors found indications of “cholinesterase inhibitors” in his system. Found in some drugs, pesticides and nerve chemicals, cholinesterase inhibitors block the breakdown of a key chemical in the body, acetycholine, which transmits signals between nerve cells.
Navalny is being treated with atropine, the same antidote used after the 2018 nerve agent attack in Salisbury on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter.
Charité said Friday “that there has been some improvement in symptoms caused by inhibition of cholinesterase activity”.
“Although her condition remains serious, there is no immediate danger to her life,” the hospital said. “However, due to the severity of the patient’s intoxication, it is still too early to assess the potential long-term effects.”
Navalny’s allies say he was deliberately poisoned and the Kremlin was responsible for it. These accusations have been dismissed by Russian officials as “empty noise”.
Navalny was brought to Germany for treatment after the personal intervention of Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“We have an obligation to do everything so that this can be clarified,” Merkel told reporters at her annual summer press conference on Friday. “It was fair and good for Germany to say we were ready to welcome Mr. Navalny. And now we will try to clarify this with the possibilities we have, which are indeed limited.
Merkel said that when there was more clarity on what had happened, Germany would try to ensure that there was a response from Europe. She cited the poisoning of the Skripals, which prompted many European countries to expel Russian diplomats.
Navalny’s team last week called on Russia to open a criminal investigation into a possible attempted murder, but said there had been no response.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he saw no reason to open a criminal investigation until the cause of the politician’s condition was fully established. Russian prosecutors said Thursday that a preliminary investigation had found no indication of deliberate criminal acts committed against Navalny.