Aleksei Navalny, Critic of Putin, Is Being Flown to Germany After Day of Delays


BERLIN — A plane carrying a prominent Russian opposition figure to a German hospital for treatment of suspected poisoning took off early Saturday from a Siberian city, his spokeswoman said, after a day of delays in which Russian doctors offered a variety of reasons to block his transfer.

The opposition leader, Aleksei A. Navalny, who had been in a coma since Thursday, was being flown on a Challenger 604 air ambulance arranged by the foundation of a Berlin-based movie producer. The evacuation came after a team of German doctors who had arrived on the air ambulance stated unequivocally on Friday that it was safe for him to travel.

Mr. Navalny’s personal doctor, Anastasia Vasilyeva, said in an interview Friday that she believed the Russian authorities had tried to delay his departure long enough for the poison in his system to diminish and become difficult or impossible to identify.

The standoff had dragged on throughout the day Friday, with the evacuation plane idling at the airport.

Mr. Navalny fell suddenly and violently ill on Thursday on a flight to Moscow from the Siberian city of Tomsk, where he had met with local opposition candidates. The plane was forced to make an emergency landing in the nearby city of Omsk.

After Mr. Navalny’s arrival at the hospital in Omsk, his family and associates were bitterly critical of the authorities, who refused to release detailed information on his condition, denied he had been poisoned and contended that he was too unstable medically for travel.

The daylong refusal to allow Mr. Navalny’s transfer was effectively “an attempt on his life” being carried out by “doctors and the deceitful authorities that have authorized it,” Mr. Navalny’s spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, said.

Early Saturday, after the evacuation flight took off, Ms. Yarmysh tweeted: “The struggle for Alexei’s life and health is just beginning, and there is still a lot to go through, but now at least the first step has been taken.”

The head doctor at Hospital No. 1 in Omsk, where Mr. Navalny was being treated, told journalists that he could not release his patient even if relatives requested he do so, because Mr. Navalny’s medical condition was too unstable.

Melissa Eddy reported from Berlin and Andrew E. Kramer from Moscow. Mike Ives contributed reporting from Hong Kong.



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