The former head doctor at the Siberian hospital which first treated Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny who denied his poisoning has been found alive following a three-day search after he went missing on a hunting trip, authorities said Monday.
Alexander Murakhovsky was chief doctor at Omsk Emergency Hospital No. 1, which admitted Navalny when he fell gravely ill on an Aug. 20, 2020, flight that was forced to make an emergency landing. The governor of the Omsk region 2,200 kilometers east of Moscow later promoted Murakhovsky, 49, to the post of regional health minister last fall.
Omsk regional police said Murakhovsky had not been seen since leaving a hunting base in a forest near the Bolesheukovsky district village of Pospelovo on Friday.
Murakhovsky was found after he emerged from the forest near the village of Basliy and sought out help from villagers, the RBC news website cited the regional government's press service as saying. He was taken to the district hospital for a health examination, authorities added.
Murakhovsky's wife confirmed to the independent Dozhd broadcaster that he has been found and that she spoke to him on the phone, adding that he doesn't yet understand the scale of the search for him.
Omsk police, National Guard officers, local residents and search parties had resumed search operations early Monday morning after an overnight pause. Police said that Murakhovsky’s ATV had been found 6.5 kilometers from the hunting base.
Two other Omsk emergency hospital doctors — deputy chief physician Sergei Maximishin in February and head of the trauma and orthopedics department Rustam Agishev in March — have died since Navalny’s treatment.
Murakhovsky had denied that Navalny was poisoned, saying his treating doctors diagnosed him with a metabilic disorder. Despite Murakhovsky’s initial refusals, Navalny was airlifted to Germany for treatment following a tense standoff between Navalny's family and associates and the authorities.
President Vladimir Putin’s most vocal domestic critic returned to Russia in January after recovering from what European scientists said was Novichok chemical weapon poisoning, an act he blames on the Kremlin. He was immediately arrested and jailed for two and a half years on charges of violating parole on an old fraud conviction during his recovery abroad.
The Kremlin rejects claims that it was behind Navalny’s poisoning and has cast doubt on whether he was poisoned at all.