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Germany's Merkel Visited Russian Opposition Leader Navalny In Hospital

Aleksei Navalny sits on a bench in Berlin after being released from the hospital on September 23.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny in a Berlin hospital where he was recovering from what European experts have determined was poisoning with a military-grade nerve agent.

The 44-year-old Navalny wrote on Twitter on September 28 that it was a "private visit and a conversation with the family."

He added that he was "very grateful" to Merkel for visiting him in Berlin's Charite hospital, where he spent 32 days.

Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, told a news conference on September 28 that it was a "personal visit to Navalny in hospital," declining to disclose details of what was said or how long the meeting lasted.

On September 27, German magazine Der Spiegel reported that Merkel had made a "secret" visit to Navalny when he was in hospital.

Navalny said there was "a meeting, but one shouldn't call it secret."

Navalny, a longtime critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was discharged from the hospital last week. He remains in Germany.

He collapsed aboard a flight from Siberia to Moscow on August 20 and spent nearly three weeks in an induced coma.

After 48 hours in a hospital in Omsk, where Russian doctors said they found no trace of any poisoning, Navalny was transferred to the Charite hospital.

Doctors there found traces of a Novichok-like nerve agent in his body. Their findings were independently confirmed by laboratories in France and Sweden.

Amid allegations from Navalny's allies that Kremlin agents had poisoned him, the Russian government has resisted international pressure to launch a criminal investigation.

The Kremlin denies poisoning Navalny and says it has seen no evidence of poisoning. It has demanded that Germany, France, and Sweden share their findings.

The Navalny case has further worsened relations between Moscow and the West.

Germany has been one of the biggest proponents of the nearly completed Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline bringing Russian natural gas to Germany. But Merkel has faced growing calls to halt the project.

With reporting by Der Spiegel and AP
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