Russian dissident Alexei Navalny posed on his German hospital bed with his family today and announced he could breathe by himself a month after he was poisoned with Novichok.
Taunting the Kremlin in a defiant Instagram post, Navalny appeared with his wife Yulia and their two children from the Berlin hospital where he was flown for treatment after falling ill.
‘Hello, this is Navalny,’ he said. ‘I can still hardly do anything, but yesterday I was able to breathe on my own all day. Actually on my own, no extra help.
‘I liked it very much. It’s a remarkable process that is underestimated by many. Strongly recommended,’ Navalny said in his first social media post for 26 days.
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.
Russia, which denies involvement in the poison plot, said today it would welcome Navalny’s recovery but continued to demand more evidence from Germany in an effort to cast doubt on the Novichok finding.
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny poses with his wife Yulia and their children at the German hospital where he is being treated 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
Navalny’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said today that the opposition leader, 44, planned to return from Germany to Russia once he has recovered.
‘I’ll confirm again to everyone: no other options were ever considered,’ she said in response to questions from journalists.
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.
Navalny’s allies have pointed the finger at Vladimir Putin, saying that only the Russian government could use a military-grade nerve agent such as Novichok.
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.
Despite international calls for Russia to carry out a transparent investigation or risk sanctions, it has not opened a criminal probe.
‘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.’
Navalny arrives at Berlin’s Tegel Airport after he was airlifted from Russia. Doctors at the German hospital say his condition has been improving
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 everyone would welcome Navalny’s recovery, adding that he was free to return to Russia.
‘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,’ he said.
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, Peskov said.
A spokesman for Germany’s foreign ministry previously countered the Russian line by saying that Russian medics had access to Navalny immediately after he fell ill.
Samples taken from Navalny have also been sent to the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague for additional tests.
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.’
Despite his recovery, doctors have said they cannot rule out long-term health issues associated with the poisoning.
The EU’s diplomatic chief Josep Borrell today urged Russia to carry out a ‘full and transparent procedure’ to investigate what happened to Navalny.
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
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has accused the West of using the incident as a pretext to introduce new sanctions against Moscow.
The apparent assassination attempt has fuelled calls to scrap 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.
French leader Emmanuel Macron’s office said he had expressed ‘deep concern over the criminal act’ in a call with Putin on Monday.
The Kremlin said Putin ‘underlined the impropriety of unfounded accusations against the Russian side’ and reiterated Russia’s demand for Germany to hand over samples.