By Anton Zverev
OMSK, Russia (Reuters) – Russian doctors said on Friday gravely ill Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny could be flown to Germany to receive medical attention after the politician’s allies accused the Russian authorities of deliberately trying to stop his evacuation.
Navalny, a long-time opponent of President Vladimir Putin and his lieutenants and a campaigner against corruption, collapsed on a plane on Thurday after drinking tea that his allies believe was laced with poison.
German doctors flew in to evacuate Navalny, 44, at the request of his wife and supporters who said they feared authorities might try to cover up clues as to how he fell ill, and said the hospital treating him was badly equipped.
Russian medical staff at the hospital in Omsk, Siberia initially said on Friday Navalny‘s condition had improved slightly overnight but that he was in too unstable a state to be safely transported out of the country.
But on Friday evening they said they would not object to him being moved after the German doctors were granted access to Navalny and said they thought he was fit to travel.
A senior doctor at the hospital, Anatoly Kalinichenko, said the hospital could help transport Navalny to the airport and that he would be moved within several hours.
“…We have taken the decision that we do not object to him being transfered to a different hospital,” Kalinichenko said.
The decision came after Navalny‘s wife Yulia sent a letter to the Kremlin directly appealing for it to intervene and for it to grant permission for him to be allowed to fly out.
Alexander Murakhovsky, the head doctor at the hospital, said earlier that Navalny had been diagnosed with a metabolic disease that may have been caused by low blood sugar.
He said traces of industrial chemical substances had been found on Navalny‘s clothes and fingers and that doctors did not believe he had been poisoned.
Navalny fell ill while on a domestic flight. He was taken on a stretcher off the plane and rushed to hospital after it made an emergency landing in Omsk.
Navalny has been the biggest thorn in the Kremlin‘s side for more than a decade, exposing what he says is high-level graft and mobilising crowds of young protesters.
He has been repeatedly detained for organising public meetings and rallies and sued over his investigations into corruption. He was barred from running in a presidential election in 2018.
(Reporting by Anton Zverev in Omsk, Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber, Andrey Kuzmin, Tom Balmforth, Polina Nikolskaya, Maria Tsetkova in Moscow, by Thomas Escritt in Berlin; Writing by Andrew Osborn and Tom Balmforth; Editing by Nick Tattersall, Angus MacSwan and Frances Kerry)