Russian authorities have told opposition leader Alexei Navalny he cannot leave the country for urgent medical treatment after an attack that left him nearly blind in one eye.
Mr Navalny suffered moderate chemical burns to his right eye last week after being attacked with “zelyonka,” a green antiseptic dye that pro-Kremlin thugs use to literally smear opposition activists. The attack, which mixed the dye in with another unknown chemical, saw Mr Navalny lose 85 per cent of the vision in his right eye and stained it to the cornea and pupil, he said on Thursday.
Doctors in Russia have advised Mr Navalny to go for specialist treatment in Switzerland or Spain, which he is unable to do under two suspended felony sentences he says are punishment for his opposition to Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president.
On Thursday, Mr Navalny was abruptly told by migration authorities that he could get a passport after five years of denials, only for prison officials to call his lawyer, Vadim Kobzev, and tell him “not even to think” about leaving the country.
Mr Navalny’s supporters online identified two men from a hardline nationalist group in a video of the attack hours after it appeared on a pro-Putin TV station. One of the men blogged the day before the attack about receiving an “extremely unexpected proposal” from lawmakers during a visit to parliament.
Vedomosti, the FT’s former sister paper, reported on Thursday that authorities opened criminal investigations into the attack on Mr Navalny, as well as similar attacks on two other opposition figures that same week. Mr Navalny says he is unaware of any investigation.