Alexei Navalny posts photo from hospital, plans return to Russia

MOSCOW • Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny shared a photograph from a Berlin hospital yesterday, sitting up in bed and surrounded by his family, and said he could now breathe independently after being poisoned in Siberia last month.

The photo – the strongest evidence yet of Mr Navalny’s advancing recovery after emerging from a coma last week – was swiftly followed by confirmation from his press spokesman that he planned to return to Russia.

“Hi, this is Navalny. I miss you all,” he wrote in the caption to his Instagram followers. “I can still hardly do anything, but yesterday I could breathe all day on my own. Actually on my own.”

The leading opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin fell ill while campaigning on Aug 20 and was airlifted to Berlin.

Germany says laboratory tests in three countries have determined he was poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent, and Western governments have demanded an explanation from Russia.

Moscow has called the accusations groundless.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov yesterday reiterated that Moscow was open to clearing up what happened to Mr Navalny, but needed access to information on his case from Berlin.

He said Moscow did not understand why, if French and Swedish labs had been able to test his medical samples, Russia was not being given the same access.

The case has further strained relations between Russia and the West, already at a post-Cold War low.

The New York Times yesterday quoted a German security official as saying Mr Navalny planned to return to Russia as soon as he recovered.

Confirming the report, Mr Navalny’s spokesman Kira Yarmysh wrote on Twitter: “No other options were ever considered.”

When asked for comment, Mr Peskov said: “Any citizen of the Russian Federation is free to leave Russia and return to Russia. If a citizen of the Russian Federation recovers his health, then of course everyone will be happy about that.”

Mr Navalny, 44, has riled Mr Putin for the past decade with detailed campaigns exposing official corruption, bypassing the state-controlled media by using Instagram and YouTube.


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