Russian Opposition Leader Hospitalized After Suspected Poisoning

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August 20, 2020

Russian politician and noted Putin critic Alexei Navalny was hospitalized in grave condition Thursday following a suspected poisoning, the New York Times reported.

Navalny suddenly lost consciousness after groaning in agony on a flight to Moscow, needing to be rushed to a hospital after the plane made an emergency landing. Navalny was put on a ventilator and is reported to have stabilized, but is still in a coma.

Kira Yarmish, Navalny's spokeswoman, said the opposition leader may have been poisoned by something put in his tea. "If law enforcement agencies are not looking into intentional poisoning, why are there so many cops in the hospital?" she said in response to a Russian law enforcement source that said poisoning was not suspected.

A Putin spokesman wished Navalny a swift recovery and said the Kremlin would provide assistance in transporting Navalny abroad to another hospital if requested.

As the opposition leader of Russia of the Future—an anti-Kremlin party—Navalny has long been one of Russia’s most fiery critics of the Putin regime. In the past, he had filed a detailed anti-corruption report that highlighted the self-service of local officials affiliated with United Russia, the Putin-backed party that dominates Russian politics.

If confirmed by toxicologists, this would not be the first time Navalny has been poisoned. In jail last year, Navalny suffered a "severe allergic reaction," which his doctor suspected could have been the result of poisoning. Navalny was sentenced to 30 days in jail last year for mobilizing protesters against a ruling that barred opposition candidates from running for office in Moscow.

In 2017, Navalny was doused by an unknown green substance after shaking hands in Siberia. The substance ultimately lost him about 80 percent of his vision in his left eye.

Over the past two decades, Russian security services have been suspected of poisoning critics of the Kremlin.

In recent weeks, pro-democratic uproar against the Kremlin-aligned dictator Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus has occurred, threatening Russia's influence in the country. Meanwhile, a wave of protests have sprung up in Russia's Far East in response to the imprisonment of Sergei Furgal, a popular governor and Putin critic.