Stable but serious condition It’s now been more than 12 hours since Alexey Navalny’s apparent poisoning. Here’s what we know so far.
Alexey Navalny was hospitalized in the Siberian city of Omsk on the morning of August 20 and remains in a coma. Doctors say he’s in stable but serious condition. Navalny’s exact diagnosis remains unknown. The Omsk Health Ministry's press service said that there are “no signs of stroke or heart attack, and no signs of infections, including the coronavirus infection.” Navalny’s personal physician, the head of the Doctors’ Alliance, Dr. Anastasia Vasileva, told Meduza that Navalny underwent good blood tests, but isn’t undergoing detoxification treatment. He also has an enlarged liver and is showing an increase in a particular liver enzyme. Without citing any sources, the Telegram-based news outlet Baza claims that according to preliminary findings, Navalny was exposed to toxins that affect the functioning of the nervous system. The source of this toxic substance remains unknown, Baza says; but it supposedly caused Navalny’s brain to swell. The Omsk Regional Health Ministry stated that the reports about Navalny’s brain swelling haven’t been confirmed. Another Telegram-centered news outlet, Mash, published a doctor’s report following an MRI, which says that there were no “structural changes” to Navalny’s brain.
Later in the day, Yulia Navalnaya, Navalny’s wife, flew from Moscow to Omsk. Initially, the hospital wouldn’t let her in to see her husband. According to Navalny’s spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, ICU doctors initially told Yulia Navalnaya that “the patient hadn’t consented to visitors” — then they told her that her passport didn’t prove that they are married, and demanded to see a marriage certificate. After a meeting with the hospital’s head doctor, Yulia Navalnaya was allowed to see her husband. Dr. Anastasia Vasileva was allowed into the hospital, but she wasn’t allowed into the ward where Navalny is currently located.
Navalny’s team is insisting on sending him abroad for treatment. However, according to them, the doctors are refusing to transport him to another clinic, on the grounds that he’s in no condition to be moved. Earlier, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that if Navalny’s headquarters were to officially ask the Kremlin or the Health Ministry for help transporting Navalny, the authorities would be “ready to consider such appeals very promptly.” Dr. Anastasia Vasileva said that Navalny’s team had “officially responded to this offer” and asked for help obtaining the medical documents needed for transporting Navalny to Europe. Vasileva later told Meduza that Deputy Health Minister Oleg Salagay contacted her.
Members of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) maintain that the authorities don’t want to send Navalny abroad, and that they’re trying to cover up signs of poisoning. Leonid Volkov, who leads Navalny’s headquarters, said that Anastasia Vasileva and Yulia Navalnaya being denied access to Navalny was part of a “special operation” aimed at “concealing traces of a crime.” “[This is] to make the toxin impossible to identify. So that no one gets access to the biomaterials. So that there’s no convincing evidence of the kind of substance and how exactly he was poisoned,” Volkov wrote on Facebook. FBK lawyer Lyubov Sobol shared the same opinion.
Navalny’s headquarters denied rumors that he had been drinking heavily the day before. This information appeared on several Telegram channels, but there was no concrete source. In particular, Mash wrote that “according to unconfirmed reports, Navalny drank until two a.m. in the village of Kaftanchikovo outside of Tomsk” and that he had 0.2 ppm of alcohol in his blood when he got to the hospital (in reality, this is a very small amount). In turn, Kira Yarmysh accused “Kremlin Telegram channels” of “testing out new topics.” “This isn’t true. He didn’t drink yesterday and didn’t take any [hangover] pills today,” Yarmysh wrote on Twitter. The head of Navalny’s Tomsk headquarters, Ksenia Fadeeva, confirmed that Navalny was in Kaftanchikovo yesterday, but stressed that he didn’t drink any alcohol.
Navalny’s team has reported the crime to the Russian Investigative Committee. According to FBK lawyer Vyacheslav Gimadi, they’re demanding that state investigators open a case for “encroachment on the life of a statesman or a public figure” (article 277 of the Russian Criminal Code) and attempted murder (articles 30 and 105). A number of representatives from various security agencies are present at the hospital where Navalny is located. According to Kira Yarmysh, security officials tried to seize Navalny’s personal belongings from Yulia Navalnaya, but she refused to hand them over, saying that they’d have to arrest her officially first.
Translation by Eilish Hart