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Russian opposition leader Navalny hospitalized after suspected poisoning

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FILE – In this Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019 file photo Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny speaks during a rally to support political prisoners in Moscow, Russia.


Dmitri Lovetsky/Associated Press

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny
is in a coma and on a ventilator in a hospital intensive care unit in Siberia
after falling ill from suspected poisoning during a flight, his spokeswoman
said Thursday morning.

The 44-year-old foe of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin
felt unwell on a flight back to Moscow from Tomsk, a city in Siberia, Kira
Yarmysh said on Twitter.

She said the plane made an emergency landing in Omsk,
Siberia, and that Navalny was suffering from “toxic poisoning.”

“He is in a coma in grave condition,” she said on
Twitter.

She also told the Echo Moskvy radio station that Navalny was
sweating and asked her to talk to him so that he could “focus on a sound
of a voice.” He then went to the bathroom and lost consciousness.

Yarmysh said the politician must have consumed something
from tea he drank earlier in the morning.

“Doctors are saying the toxin was absorbed quicker with
hot liquid,” she tweeted, adding that Navalny’s team called police to the
hospital.

Russia’s state news agency Tass reported that the politician
is in grave condition, citing the chief doctor at the hospital.

Last year, Navalny was rushed to a hospital from prison
where he was serving a sentence following an administrative arrest, with what
his team said was suspected poisoning. Doctors then said he had a severe
allergic attack and discharged him back to prison the following day.

Navalny’s Foundation for Fighting Corruption has been
exposing graft among government officials, including some at the highest level.
Last month, the politician had to shut the foundation after a financially
devastating lawsuit from Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman with close ties to
the Kremlin.

Like many other opposition politicians in Russia, Navalny
has been frequently detained by law enforcement and harassed by pro-Kremlin
groups. In 2017, he was attacked by several men who threw antiseptic in his
face, damaging one eye.

The most prominent member of Russia’s opposition, Navalny
campaigned to challenge Putin in the 2018 presidential election, but was barred
from running.

He set up a network of campaign offices across Russia and
has since been putting forward opposition candidates in regional elections,
challenging members of Russia’s ruling party, United Russia.

In the interview with Echo Moskvy, Yarmysh said she believed
the suspected poisoning was connected to this year’s regional election
campaign.

Vyacheslav Gimadi, a lawyer with Navalny’s foundation, said
the team is requesting Russia’s Investigative Committee open a criminal probe.

“There is no doubt that Navalny was poisoned because of
his political stance and activity,” Gimadi said in a tweet on Thursday.

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