Doctors in Siberia who treated Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny for a suspected poisoning before he was airlifted to a hospital in Germany said Monday that their efforts had saved his life.
The 44-year-old opposition politician went into a coma after falling suddenly ill Thursday on a flight to Moscow, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing in the Siberian city of Omsk. He was transported to Omsk Emergency Hospital No. 1, where he remained in a coma and on a ventilator before being evacuated to Germany early Saturday morning.
“The Omsk Emergency Hospital No. 1 made quite an effort to save Alexei Navalny’s life, there can be no doubt about it,” its chief doctor Alexander Murakhovsky said at a press conference.
Navalny’s aides believe he was poisoned by a toxic substance mixed in a cup of tea he drank at an airport cafe in the Siberian city of Tomsk before his flight to Moscow.
They pushed for Navalny to be flown to a leading German toxicology center, citing a lack of vital equipment at the Omsk hospital and a worry that doctors there faced pressure from the authorities.
“There was no and could be no [political] influence on the patient’s treatment,” Murakhovsky said, according to BBC Russia.
The Omsk doctors initially refused to let Navalny leave when the German air ambulance arrived, but reversed course after his family and staff demanded he be allowed to travel to Germany.
While they have said tests showed no trace of any poison in Navalny's system, the German government on Monday said it was "fairly likely" that Navalny was poisoned.
Murakhovsky sidestepped a question on photographs shared on Friday by Navalny’s spokeswoman that show three unidentified men in plain clothes sitting in his office.
“I can’t say who that was. I can’t say that they were doing something,” he said.