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Kremlin Critic Kara-Murza Emerges From Coma, Condition Improving

Vladimir Kara-Murza is a coordinator for former tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky's nongovernmental organization, Open Russia, and has advocated before U.S. lawmakers for sanctions against Russian officials and media executives.

Kremlin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza Jr. who has been hospitalized in critical condition for the second time in two years in what his family and friends suspect was a deliberate poisoning, has awoken from a coma and improved noticeably, his lawyer and wife told RFE/RL.

Vadim Prokhorov said in a February 8 post on Facebook that his client’s heart was functioning normally and that he was conscious enough to interact with his wife, though he still was unable to talk.

Yevgeniya Kara-Murza told RFE/RL that doctors have periodically disconnected her husband from a ventilator to let him breathe on his own, and that his heart and kidneys "are doing better and functioning without medication."

Kara-Murza, 35, fell ill on February 2 in Moscow and was hospitalized in an intensive-care unit. His wife said later that her husband had suffered kidney failure and was on life support after being placed in a medically-induced coma.

His family says his symptoms are almost identical to those of his near-fatal 2015 illness, also in Moscow, which he believes was the result of a deliberate poisoning in retaliation for his political activities.

A coordinator for former tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky's nongovernmental organization, Open Russia, Kara-Murza has advocated before U.S. lawmakers for sanctions against Russian officials and media executives.

Earlier this week, Yevgeniya Kara-Murza said doctors had diagnosed her husband with "acute poisoning by an undetermined substance."

Yevgeniya also said that samples of her husband’s blood, hair, and fingernails had been sent to a private laboratory in Israel for analysis.

Vladimir Kara-Murza and his wife, Yevgeniya (file photo)
Vladimir Kara-Murza and his wife, Yevgeniya (file photo)

She told RFE/RL that Kara-Murza was unable to speak but he was able to communicate by blinking, though "he’s slightly confused and has trouble focusing, which I’m told is to be expected after [a] coma."

Kara-Murza has said he believes his May 2015 illness was the caused by a sophisticated toxin that he says would likely only be accessible to security services.

His doctors initially believed he may have suffered unintentional poisoning due to a widely prescribed antidepressant he was taking at the time, though independent toxicologists called this scenario highly unlikely.

Since the recovery from his near-fatal illness, Kara-Murza had stopped taking prescription medicines, according to family and friends.

As with his earlier illness, Kara-Murza’s hospitalization has raised concerns among senior U.S. lawmakers who say he may have been targeted for assassination due to his activism.

John McCain, an influential Republican senator who is deeply critical of President Vladimir Putin, said in a speech on the Senate floor February 7 that Kara-Murza had suffered "another apparent poisoning" because "he kept faith with his ideals in confrontation with a cruel and dangerous autocracy."

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    Carl Schreck

    Carl Schreck is an award-winning investigative journalist who serves as RFE/RL's enterprise editor. He has covered Russia and the former Soviet Union for more than 20 years, including a decade in Moscow. He has led investigations into corruption, cronyism, and disinformation campaigns in Russia and Central Asia, as well as on poisoning attacks against Kremlin opponents and assassinations of Iranian exiles in the West. Schreck joined RFE/RL in 2014.

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    Mike Eckel

    Mike Eckel is a senior correspondent reporting on political and economic developments in Russia, Ukraine, and around the former Soviet Union, as well as news involving cybercrime and espionage. He's reported on the ground on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the wars in Chechnya and Georgia, and the 2004 Beslan hostage crisis, as well as the annexation of Crimea in 2014.