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Russian Opposition Leader Navalny Says He May Have Been 'Poisoned' In Prison

Updated

Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny attends a hearing at a court in Moscow on June 24.

MOSCOW -- Jailed Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny said in a statement on July 29 that he might have been "poisoned" in his prison cell amid a crackdown on anti-Kremlin protesters.

Navalny, who has been in jail since last week for calling an unauthorized rally, released the statement on July 29 along with a picture of himself in a hospital with his face swollen, especially around the eyes.

His statement comes as speculation continues to swirl over his health following his release earlier on July 29 from a Moscow hospital due to an unspecified illness.

The Kremlin critic posted a picture of himself in social media with a bloated face and one eye shut that he couldn’t open.

The 43-year-old’s physician, Anastasia Vasilyeva, told reporters that Navalny had been released and taken back to prison under guard.

Navalny was rushed to a hospital a day earlier with a rash and severe swelling of the face, sparking fears he had been the victim of a poisoning attempt, though hospital officials characterized the illness as "a generalized allergic reaction."

Navalny's lawyer, Olga Mikhailova, reiterated in front of the hospital after his release from the medical facility that she believes he had been "poisoned" by an unidentified chemical agent.

"Aleksei has gotten better after an intense treatment with [steroid medication] prednisolone," Vasilyeva added in a statement she issued from the hospital.


Earlier on July 29, Vasilyeva said she “categorically” opposed Navalny's return to detention while it remained unclear what had caused his illness.

"There was no toxicologist consultation. There are no toxicological test results," Vasilyeva said. "The toxic agent that caused the swelling and rash is unclear."

Vasilyeva said it was suspicious that police at the hospital refused to allow her to conduct a proper examination of Navalny.

She said she was able to see through a crack in a door that he had skin lesions on his upper torso and face, and that his eyes were secreting mucus.

She also accused doctors at the hospital of failing to investigate what had caused Navalny’s illness.

"They have decided against establishing the cause of generalized edema and a rash," she wrote on Facebook.

Lawyer Olga Mikhailova told journalists outside the hospital that she believes Navalny was poisoned.
Lawyer Olga Mikhailova told journalists outside the hospital that she believes Navalny was poisoned.

Navalny was sentenced last week to 30 days in jail after calling for unauthorized protests in Moscow on July 27 that ended with more than 1,300 people being detained in a crackdown by police that has been internationally condemned as violent and "disproportionate."

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Mikhailova, Navalny's lawyer, says an appeal against his administrative arrest is scheduled to take place in the Moscow City Court on July 30.

"I ask in the appeal to terminate Navalny's administrative case due to the lack of evidence or to terminate his administrative arrest due to his poor health condition," Mikhailova said on July 29.

She said doctors at the medical facility where he'd been brought had taken his blood sample for a toxicological test, but it was unclear when the report would be prepared.

Mikhailova also said doctors had told her definitively that Navalny was not suffering from allergic hives, known as urticaria.

Navalny has been sentenced to jail about a dozen times in recent years and has served more than 200 days in incarceration.

Infographic: All The Times Aleksei Navalny Has Been In Jail (click to view)


His spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, said he arrived at the Moscow hospital on the morning of July 28 with “severe facial swelling and red rashes on the skin,” adding that he had “never experienced an allergic reaction before.”

Leonid Volkov, a top aide to Navalny, later tweeted that he'd had a similar reaction after he served a sentence in the same cell as Navalny last month.

Volkov rejected talk of a "conspiracy" and called instead for a "serious inspection" of hygiene standards at the detention center.

Late on July 28, police dispersed a crowd of about two dozen people and detained a journalist at the hospital where Navalny is being treated.

Video footage emerged on Twitter of police clad in tactical gear emerging from a bus in front of the hospital, detaining and chasing down people who had assembled outside the hospital.

A reporter from the Internet TV station Dozhd was detained while reporting live from the scene as the group of people stood in the background near the hospital’s entrance.

With reporting by Interfax, dpa, AFP, and Reuters
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