Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny sat up in his hospital bed and announced he could breathe unaided today a month after he was allegedly poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok.
‘Hello, this is Navalny,’ he said in a post on Instagram, appearing with his family in the Berlin hospital where he was flown for treatment after falling ill.
‘Yesterday I was able to breathe on my own all day,’ he said in his first social media post in 26 days since the suspected assassination attempt at a Siberian airport.
Doctors at the Charite hospital say Navalny’s condition ‘continues to improve’, announcing yesterday that he was able to leave his bed for short periods.
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny – pictured in a new Instagram post – is being treated at a German hospital after being poisoned with Novichok
Navalny being taken to an ambulance in Omsk (left) after falling ill on a plane following a trip to an airport cafe (right) in August where his friends suspect he could have been poisoned
Friends of Navalny have suggested his tea was spiked in an airport cafe in Tomsk where he was pictured shortly before boarding a flight on August 20.
After Navalny fell ill, the aircraft made an emergency landing in Omsk and he was initially taken to hospital in the Siberian city.
The following weekend he was airlifted to Berlin, where doctors at the Charite hospital treated him with the antidote atropine and kept him in a medically induced coma.
On September 2, the German government announced that a military lab had found evidence of Novichok, the Soviet-era nerve agent used to target Sergei Skripal in Salisbury in 2018.
Germany said there was ‘unequivocal evidence’ of Novichok which has since been independently confirmed by labs in Sweden and France.
Western leaders have piled pressure on Russia to explain how Navalny was poisoned, but the Kremlin has denied involvement and played down Germany’s findings.
‘There are very serious questions now that only the Russian government can answer, and must answer,’ Angela Merkel said earlier this month, describing what happened to Navalny as ‘the attempted murder by poisoning of one of Russia’s leading opposition figures.’
Governments across the West condemned the poisoning, including UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab who urged Moscow to ‘tell the truth’ about the poisoning.
While Berlin stopped short of accusing Russia directly, Navalny’s aide Ivan Zhdanov said Novichok ‘can only be used by the state’ – suggesting that the GRU or FSB intelligence agencies were responsible.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said today that Moscow would welcome Navalny’s recovery, adding that he was free to return to Russia.
Peskov said the Kremlin was open to clearing up what happened to Navalny, but needed access to information on his case from Germany.
Moscow did not understand why Russia was not being given the same access as French and Swedish laboratories which confirmed the Novichok finding, Peskov said.
Samples taken from Navalny have also been sent to the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague for additional tests.
Navalny arrives at Berlin’s Tegel Airport after he was airlifted from Russia. Doctors at the German hospital say his condition has been improving
Doctors at the Charite hospital (pictured on Monday) say Navalny’s condition is improving, two weeks after a German military lab found that he had been poisoned with a nerve agent
The head of Russia’s foreign intelligence service claimed today that Navalny showed no signs of poisoning before he was flown to Berlin for treatment.
‘It is a fact that the moment Alexei Navalny left Russian territory there were no toxins in his system,’ Sergei Naryshkin said.
‘Therefore, we have many questions to the German side,’ he told reporters.
Hospital medics said in their sixth official update on Monday that Navalny’s condition ‘continues to improve’.
‘The patient has been successfully removed from mechanical ventilation. He is currently undergoing mobilisation and is able to leave his bed for short periods of time,’ the statement said.
‘The decision to make details of Mr Navalny’s condition public was made in consultation with the patient and his wife.’
The apparent assassination attempt has fuelled calls for sanctions against Moscow – including scrapping the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, a Kremlin flagship project to bring more Russian gas directly to Germany under the Baltic Sea.
Navalny has been a thorn in the Kremlin’s side for more than a decade, exposing what he says is high-level corruption and mobilising protests.
He has been repeatedly detained for organising public meetings, sued over corruption investigations and barred from running in the 2018 presidential election.
The 44-year-old has also served several stints in jail in recent years for organising anti-Kremlin protests.
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Russia’s arrests and detention of Navalny in 2012 and 2014 were politically motivated.
Navalny’s allies have pointed the finger at Russian president Vladimir Putin (pictured) after the opposition leader fell ill, but the Kremlin has dismissed the claims