Alexei Navalny, Russia’s most outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin, is fighting for his life in a hospital, and his spokeswoman says she believes Navalny was poisoned as he was flying from Siberia back to Moscow.
Navalny is unconscious and is on a ventilator, spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh, who had been traveling with the opposition leader, said via Twitter.
Navalny drank some tea at the airport in Tomsk, Yarmysh said, adding that he began feeling unwell shortly after take-off from. His deteriorating condition prompted an emergency landing at Omsk, some 550 miles away.
A doctor who spoke to reporters at the hospital “said Navalny is in serious but stable condition in the intensive care unit,” NPR’s Lucian Kim reports. “But he said poisoning it poisoning is only one possible diagnosis.”
The only thing Navalny drank was the tea, according to Yarmysh, who says she was with Navalny from early in the morning.
The incident has triggered a massive police response — Yarmysh said she believes police officers may now outnumber doctors at the hospital where Navalny is being treated. She posted a photo showing what she said was a small portion of the officers, gathered in the hallway outside of Navalny’s room in intensive care.
Semyon Kochkin, an activist and ally of Navalny, said via Twitter that it would be “impossible” to poison Navalny without President Vladimir Putin’s approval. He added that the ongoing unrest and public anger over a hotly disputed election in Belarus has made Russia’s leaders afraid of similar scenes playing out in Russia.