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Kremlin critic Navalny's wife asks Putin to allow airlift amid coverup fears

OMSK, Russia: The wife of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny appealed to President Vladimir Putin on Friday (Aug 21) to allow the stricken politician to be airlifted to Germany to get medical attention and accused authorities of deliberately trying to stop his evacuation.

Navalny, a long-time opponent of Putin and his lieutenants and a campaigner against corruption, collapsed on a plane on Thurday after drinking tea that his allies believe was laced with poison.

German doctors flew in on Friday, hoping to evacuate him at the request of his wife and supporters who fear Russian authorities could try to cover up clues as to how he fell ill and say that the hospital treating him is badly equipped.

The doctors at the hospital in Omsk, Siberia, said his condition had improved a little overnight but that it was still unstable and that he could not be transported because his life was still in danger.

That, however, was contradicted by the German activist organisation that flew in the plane which said the German doctors had been granted access to Navalny and judged him to be in a fit state to be flown out.

Navalny's wife Yulia sent a letter to the Kremlin directly appealing for it to intervene, Navalny's supporters said.

"I officially appeal to you (Putin) to demand you allow the transportation of ... Navalny to .. Germany," the letter published on social media said.

There was no immediate response from the Kremlin.

READ: Putin critic Navalny fights for life, aides suspect poisoning

The Kremlin said earlier it was up to doctors to decide whether Navalny was fit to be moved from the hospital and that it had not received any formal request to help.

Alexander Murakhovsky, the head doctor at the hospital, said Navalny had been diagnosed with a metabolic disease that may have been caused by low blood sugar.

He said traces of industrial chemical substances had been found on the 44-year-old's clothes and fingers hours and that doctors did not believe Navalny had been poisoned.

Navalny's spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said doctors had previously consented to his being moved, but had withheld their agreement at the last minute.

"This decision, of course, was not made by them, but by the Kremlin," she said.

"He won't be treated in Omsk, he will be in a stable bad condition and in a coma because no one here has an interest in saving him. Only in covering up the crime," she said.

Murakhovsky told reporters that many legal questions would need to be resolved before Navalny could be handed over to European doctors.

He said top doctors had been flown in from Moscow to treat Navalny who were no worse than their European counterparts. Test results would be available within two days, he said.

Navalny fell ill while on a domestic flight and he was stretchered off the plane and rushed to hospital after it made an emergency landing in Omsk.

Navalny has been the biggest 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.

He has been repeatedly detained for organising public meetings and rallies and sued over his investigations into corruption. He was barred from running in a presidential election in 2018.

Source: Reuters/nh


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