Alexei Navalny discharged from Berlin hospital
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The poisoned Russian opposition activist, Alexei Navalny, has been discharged from hospital and has a chance of “complete recovery”, doctors treating him in Germany said on Wednesday.
Mr Navalny, the most vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, had been treated at Berlin’s Charité hospital for suspected poisoning by the chemical agent novichok, and spent 24 days in intensive care.
“Based on the patient’s progress and current condition, the treating physicians believe that complete recovery is possible,” a statement from Charité said. “However, it remains too early to gauge the potential long-term effects of his severe poisoning.”
Mr Navalny fell ill on a flight from Siberia on August 20. He was flown to Berlin for treatment two days later.
German government spokesman Steffen Seibert confirmed the discharge at a press conference, but gave no information on where Mr Navalny had gone or what security measures were being taken.
In a post on Instagram, the social media website, Mr Navalny said he was undergoing daily physiotherapy. “One of the characters from The Lord of the Rings was looking at me, and believe me, it sure wasn’t an elf. I was very upset and thought they’d never discharge me.”
Mr Navalny said he still had yet to fully regain his balance and co-ordination. “The funny thing is I was dreaming of learning to wakeboard this summer. Now I’m learning to stand on one leg.”
Early in September, the German government announced that a toxicology test by a specialist military laboratory proved “beyond all doubt” that he was poisoned with novichok, a military-grade nerve agent also used in the 2018 Salisbury poisonings in the UK that targeted former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.
The Kremlin has denied any responsibility for the attack, but Mr Navalny’s poisoning and subsequent treatment in Germany have strained German-Russian relations. Moscow says the accusations are a pretext by US “puppetmasters” to introduce further sanctions against Russia’s economy.
Mr Navalny, Russia’s most prominent anti-corruption activist, has vowed to return to Russia to continue his activism and accused the Kremlin of stonewalling attempts to find his poisoners.
Mr Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday that Mr Navalny “has the right to [return] at any moment”. He added: “No meetings [with investigators] are planned here; if the patient himself does not have the desire and intention to share with our law enforcement officers the information that he actively shares with colleagues from Germany.”
German media reports, citing intelligence sources, said the novichok used on Mr Navalny was a new, far more potent formulation of the agent than that used on the Skripals. The reports speculated that Mr Navalny survived only because of the swift action of the pilot who made an emergency landing, as well as the medics that immediately treated him.
Russia says it found no traces of novichok in Mr Navalny’s system and has suggested he might have been poisoned after he arrived in Germany. Mr Peskov on Wednesday repeated Moscow’s demand for Berlin to share information regarding the nerve agent used.
Officials and state media have issued a series of contradictory claims to muddy the waters, including that Mr Navalny was poisoned by his own allies on instructions from the CIA, or that he fell into a diabetic coma. Russian officials also accused his team of taking evidence of the crime to Germany despite refusing to investigate it themselves.
In a conversation last month, Mr Putin told his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron that Mr Navalny might have somehow poisoned himself with novichok, Le Monde reported on Tuesday.
“I cooked up some novichok in the kitchen. Had a sip from a flask on the plane. Fell into a coma,” Mr Navalny joked on Instagram. “The end goal of my cunning plan was to die in a hospital in Omsk and wind up in the Omsk morgue so they could diagnose ‘he’d lived long enough’ as the cause of death. But Putin beat me. You can’t trick him that easily. So I was in a coma for 18 days but didn’t get what I wanted. The provocation failed!”
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