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Before he became violently ill Opposition politician Alexey Navalny has been hospitalized and possibly poisoned. Here’s why he went to Siberia, where he was apparently attacked.

Source: Meduza
Maxim Shemetov / Reuters / Scanpix / LETA

On August 20, opposition politician Alexey Navalny was hospitalized at an intensive care unit in Omsk after becoming violently ill aboard a plane returning from Siberia, where he spent several days in Novosibirsk and Tomsk. Navalny’s condition is reportedly very serious and it’s possible he was poisoned. Meduza reviews why Russia’s most famous anti-corruption activist was in Siberia.

Alexey Navalny flew to Novosibirsk a week ago. He landed on Thursday evening, August 13, says Elena Noskovets, who works at his local office in the city. Novosibirsk and Tomsk are holding city council elections next month and Navalny and his supporters have endorsed several independent candidates. “The trip’s main purpose was to support the ‘Smart Vote’ system. These are key regions,” said a source in one of Navalny’s local offices, referring to the strategic voting initiative Navalny launched last year, designed to rally support for the registered candidates in races with the best chance of defeating United Russia’s picks. 

“On Friday and Saturday, he was filming in different locations. Late on Friday, he came to the office and spoke to volunteers and staff. They talked about the local elections and election monitoring. Alexey was in high spirits,” says Noskovets.

In addition to promoting opposition candidates and strategic voting, Navalny went to Novosibirsk and Tomsk to record footage for an upcoming investigative report about local United Russia deputies, a source in one of his local offices told Meduza. The news outlet Taiga.info also reported that Navalny “may have been collecting materials” for a new investigation about United Russia deputies in the area.

According to his press secretary, Kira Yarmysh, Navalny left Novosibirsk on August 17 for Tomsk, where he again met with local election candidates and volunteers. He spent about three days in both cities. Speaking to Taiga.info, Navanly’s Tomsk chief of staff, Ksenia Fadeeva, said she noticed nothing unusual about his behavior on the last day of his visit. 

A source at one of Navalny’s local offices told Meduza that there were no incidents or disruptions while film crews recorded footage for their investigative report. “Nothing out of the ordinary happened. We were tailed, as usual,” the source said. 

Yarmysh declined to comment on the film Navalny’s group is preparing.

On Instagram, there are dozens of photos uploaded by locals in Novosibirsk and Tomsk who stopped for selfies with Navalny.

Early on August 20, Navalny boarded a plane in Tomsk to return to Moscow. When Navalny became violently ill and passed out, the aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing in Omsk, where he was hospitalized in intensive care.

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Text by Farida Rustamova

Translation by Kevin Rothrock