“Poisoned” Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is a fierce critic of Putin

Before he found himself after his suspected poisoning to fight for his life, Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny traveled through Siberia and urged Russians to vote against the coronations of Vladimir Putin in upcoming local elections.

Navalny, 44, openly described Putin as “the tsar of corruption” and called the Russian leader’s party a group of “thugs and thieves”. ‘

The anti-corruption lawyer and crusader, described as Putin’s fiercest enemy, has been so outspoken in recent weeks that most of the people he met have questioned exactly how he managed to survive so long. to stay.

On Saturday, Navalny, who is hugely popular in Russia with 2.2 million Twitter followers, was taken to Berlin hospital to be treated for the suspected poisoning.

He fell ill on Thursday after drinking tea at a Russian airport, and then crashed during a flight over Siberia. Russian doctors treating him in the Siberian capital Omsk rejected the poisoned hypothesis, saying he was suffering from “a metabolic disorder.”

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny
Medical specialists today bring Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on a stretcher in an ambulance in Omsk, Russia.REUTERS

What followed was a tight 24-hour struggle between the Russian and German governments to allow his evacuation to Berlin, paid for by a German non-profit.

His critics argued that the delay was a blast to stop his treatment until the poison had left his system. The Kremlin denied the claim, and on Friday granted permission for his transfer to the German hospital. Doctors at Charite Hospital placed Navalny in a medically-induced coma to stop his stools, according to reports.

“He is one of the most effective, leading and, frankly, dangerous political opponents of the Putin regime,” Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian journalist and opposition activist, told the Sunday Times of London.

Like many other opposition leaders, Kara-Murza, who lobbyes for economic sanctions against Russian officials, said he was a victim of poisoning by Russian officials. He said he survived two attempts in 2015 and 2017. The first time he suffered kidney failure and the second time he was placed in a medically induced coma.

Opposition leaders say Navalny’s popularity, especially among young people, is the biggest threat to Putin, who has a wave of protests in Siberia and Belarus on the country’s western border. If anyone could lead a mass uprising against Putin, it would be Navalny, Kara-Murza said.

Alexei Navalny plane medics
Medics upload Alexei Navalny today to a German special medical aircraft at an airport in Omsk, Russia.The press team of Kira Yarmysh / Alexei Navalny via AP

Navalny’s anti-corruption videos on YouTube, in which he flies drones over the hot houses of the Russian elite to expose their entire lifestyles, have become internet hits in Russia. When Navalny was arrested in 2012, thousands of people took to the streets to demand his release. They are expected to act with even greater anger when he dies as a martyr for the opposition cause, Kremlin critics say.

Asked if he was afraid Putin would launch direct attacks against him, Navalny said he did not think the Russian leader would be so obvious.

“I do not think Putin would say directly to anyone, ‘Please meet Navalny in front of his office and pour toxic liquid in his face,'” he told the Sunday Times of London recently. ‘They should have had a meeting and said,’ We need to push him, make him uncomfortable. ‘People know how to read the hints. ”

In Russia, authorities issued those ‘hints’ even before Navalny’s flight to Germany boarded. On Friday, Russian police crushed another opposition to Putin in the country.

A member of the feminist protest group Pussy Riot tweeted that authorities were trying to arrest her in Norilsk, an industrial city above the Arctic Circle.

‘It’s very disturbing. They are clearly trying to intimidate us all, “the militant group tweeted.