Poisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny reacts after being released from medically induced coma

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The condition of poisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has improved, allowing medics to rescue him from an induced coma, the German hospital treating him said on Monday.Navalny, a fierce and high-profile critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was flown to Germany last month after falling ill on a domestic flight in Russia on August 20. German chemical weapons experts say tests show the 44-year-old was poisoned by a Soviet-era nerve agent, prompting the German government last week to demand that Russia investigate the case.

“The patient has been recovered from his medically induced coma and is weaned from mechanical ventilation,” Charite Hospital Berlin said in a statement. “He responds to verbal stimuli. It is still too early to assess the potential long-term effects of her severe poisoning. ”

The hospital said the decision to publicly disclose details of his condition was made in consultation with Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya.

WATCH | Russian opposition leader poisoned by Novichok, Germany says:

German doctors say they have proof that Alexei Navalny, a vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was poisoned by Novichok, a Soviet-era nerve agent. 1:55

Navalny has been in an induced coma in hospital in Berlin since being rushed to Germany on August 22 for treatment.

News of her gradual recovery came as German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office indicated she might be willing to rethink the fate of a controversial German-Russian gas pipeline project – a sign of Berlin’s growing frustration with the to the walls of Moscow about the affair.

A woman holding a sign with an image of Navalny expresses her support for the opposition leader after he was rushed to intensive care in Siberia. (Olga Maltseva / AFP / Getty Images)

German authorities said last week that tests showed “definite proof” that Navalny was poisoned with a Novichok group nerve agent.

British authorities identified Soviet-era Novichok as the poison used on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England in 2018.

Russia has denied that the Kremlin was involved in the poisoning of Navalny and accused Germany of failing to provide evidence of the poisoning it requested in late August.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Sunday that the Russian reaction could determine whether Germany modifies its long-standing support for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which carries Russian gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea, bypassing the ‘Ukraine.

“The Chancellor also thinks it is wrong to exclude anything,” Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters on Monday after being asked about Maas’ comments.

Previously, Merkel had insisted on “decoupling” the Navalny affair from the pipeline project, which the United States strongly opposes.

In August, three Republican U.S. senators threatened sanctions against the operator of a Baltic Sea port located in the parliamentary constituency of Merkel for its role as a relay for ships involved in the construction of Nord Stream 2.

Berlin demands answers

Seibert warned that it was premature to expect Moscow to answer the question in a few days, but made it clear that Berlin wanted answers soon.

“I can’t express a clear, time-bound expectation, except that we’re definitely not talking about the month or the end of the year,” he said.

German diplomats rejected Russian suggestion that Berlin was responsible for any delay in investigating the case, noting that Navalny was first treated for suspected poisoning in the Siberian city of Omsk on August 20.

“All the evidence, witnesses, traces, etc. are located where the crime was committed, probably somewhere in Siberia, ”German Foreign Ministry spokesman Christofer Burger said.

Paramedics load a stretcher onto an ambulance that is believed to have transported Navalny to the Charite Mitte hospital complex in Berlin on August 22. (Christian Mang / Reuters)

The co-leader of the German opposition Green Party, Robert Habeck, called on the government to take a stronger stance and “bury” the pipeline project.

The project “divides Europe, it is economically insane and oversized, and it is wrong in terms of security policy,” Habeck said. Completing it “would mean that Russia can do whatever it wants.” This signal should not be sent ”.

Mikhail Ulyanov, the Russian envoy to international organizations in Vienna, has expressed his suspicions about the timing of requests to link the pipeline to the Navalny affair.

“Suspicious coincidence of the Navalny affair and the final stage of construction of Nord Stream 2, which some states are desperate to shut down,” he tweeted. “I don’t like conspiracy theories, but obviously the tragic events with Navalny are very timely and useful for the opponents of NS2. “

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