German doctors say Alexei Navalny was poisoned

Siberian hospital says no such finding; long-term effects, especially to the nervous system, could not be ruled out

August 24, 2020 10:51 pm | Updated 10:51 pm IST - Berlin

Ensuring safety: Police officers standing guard outside Berlin's Charite hospital, where Alexei Navalny is being treated.

Ensuring safety: Police officers standing guard outside Berlin's Charite hospital, where Alexei Navalny is being treated.

German doctors said on Monday that medical examinations indicated that Russia opposition figure Alexei Navalny, who is in a Berlin hospital after collapsing on a plane in Russia last week, had been poisoned .

Mr. Navalny, a critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, had been flown to Germany for treatment on Saturday.

The Kremlin has said it was unclear what caused Mr. Navalny to fall ill and that initial tests did not show he was poisoned, as his aides charged.

Berlin’s Charite hospital said a team of doctors there had examined him in detail after his arrival.

Comatose Russian dissident Alexi Navalny visited by wife, aide in Germany

“The clinical findings indicate poisoning by a substance from the group of active substances called cholinesterase inhibitors,” the hospital said in a statement.

Cholinesterase inhibitors

The specific substance was not yet known, they said. The outcome remains uncertain but long-term effects, especially to the nervous system, could not be ruled out, it said.

Cholinesterase inhibitors are drugs that can increase communication between nerve cells in the brain. They are sometimes used to temporarily improve or stabilise the symptoms of people with dementia.

Common side effects of cholinesterase inhibitors include vomiting, muscle cramps, headache and hallucinations.

Certain chemical classes of pesticides work against bugs by interfering with, or ‘inhibiting’ cholinesterase but they can also be poisonous, or toxic, to humans in some situations.

Mr. Navalny collapsed on a plane on Thursday last week after drinking tea while on his way to campaign in Siberia.

Early on Monday, the German government said it was “fairly likely” that Mr. Navalny was poisoned.

“We are dealing with a patient who it is fairly likely was poisoned,” Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said at a press briefing.

Doctors at the Siberian hospital that first treated Mr. Navalny said earlier on Monday they had saved his life but they had not found traces of poison in his system. They had not come under pressure from authorities while treating Mr. Navalny, they said.

Mr. Navalny has been a thorn in the Kremlin’s side for more than a decade, exposing what he says is high-level graft and mobilising crowds of young protesters.

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