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Navalny Demands Official Probe Into Possible 'Poisoning' In Russian Custody


Jailed Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny sits on a hospital bed in Moscow on July 29.

Jailed opposition leader Aleksei Navalny has filed an official complaint with Russia's main investigative authority in connection with an unexplained physical reaction that required his hospitalization, alleging that he was poisoned after being taken into custody following a recent Moscow protest.

He has requested an investigation that includes a toxicology report and a request to see surveillance video from the Moscow detention center where he is being housed.

It quoted a tweet by Navalny's lawyer, Vadim Kobzev, who said the 43-year-old lawyer had made "a statement about the crime committed in connection with his poisoning" to a regional department of Russia's national Investigative Committee.

There was no immediate public confirmation by investigators of having received any statement or complaint.

Navalny has been one of President Vladimir Putin's most vocal critics for the better part of a decade, through multiple incarcerations, a barred attempt to run for president and a hamstrung bid for the Moscow mayor's post, and regular reports from Navalny and his allies alleging senior-level corruption on a massive scale.

The prominent Kremlin critic is currently serving a 30-day jail sentence for calling an unauthorized weekend protest over election officials' refusal to register dozens of independent and opposition candidates ahead of upcoming elections to the Moscow city council.

Police violently dispersed the July 27 protest, and detained nearly 1,400 people, according to the independent OVD-Info organization.

Western governments have condemned as "disproportionate" and "indiscriminate" the Russian authorities' use of violence against the protesters.

Navalny was taken from detention to a hospital late on July 28 with severe swelling of the face and a rash, sparking fears he had been poisoned. He was transferred back to jail a day later.

The chief physician at the Moscow Sklifosovsky Medical Center said on July 31 that tests performed on unspecified biomaterial taken from Navalny excluded poisoning as a reason for the recent hospitalization.

Navalny's personal doctor advised against a quick return to the detention facility and said the forensic findings were not conclusive.

"Are they really such absolute idiots to poison you in a place where suspicions point only at them?" Navalny asked in a post on his website after his return to jail, going on to conclude, "It seems to you that in their [the people in power's] actions you need to look for secret meaning or a rational purpose. But in reality, they are just stupid, malicious and obsessed with money."

Navalny's anticorruption group, the Anticorruption Foundation, has continued its efforts to call out Russian officials for suspected abuses.

On August 1, it issued a video alleging that the family of a Moscow Deputy Mayor Natalia Sergunina owns property worth 6.5 billion rubles ($102.3 million) and had purchased assets at around their starting prices at auctions organized by the mayor's office.

A coordinator for Navalny's team in Moscow, Oleg Stepanov, was immediately detained again by police on August 1 as he left a jail in the capital after serving an eight-day sentence.

Five other people have been detained as part of a criminal investigation into the July 27 protest, which authorities have termed "mass unrest," a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

The detainees iunclude Aleksey Minyaylo, a well-known activist and aide to Lyubov Sobol, an independent politician who has fought to get on the ballot for the Moscow election.

In a Facebook post, Minyalo said his apartment was searched in the middle of the night.

With reporting by Reuters
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