Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny. Picture: REUTERS/SHAMIL ZHUMATOV
Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny. Picture: REUTERS/SHAMIL ZHUMATOV

Berlin — Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has been removed from a medically induced coma and is responding to speech, Berlin's Charite hospital said on Monday.

The hospital, which has been treating Navalny since he was airlifted to Germany after falling ill on a Russian domestic flight in August, said his condition has improved and he is being weaned off mechanical ventilation.

"It remains too early to gauge the potential long-term effects of his severe poisoning," Charite said in a statement.

Navalny, a prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin, was airlifted to Germany last month after collapsing on a flight from the Siberian city of Tomsk to Moscow. It made an emergency landing in Omsk so that Navalny could be stretchered off.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has said her government has concluded Navalny, 44, was poisoned with Novichok, the same substance that Britain said was used against a Russian double agent and his daughter in an attack in the UK  in 2018.

Moscow says it has seen no evidence he was poisoned.

Novichok is a deadly group of nerve agents developed by the Soviet military in the 1970s and 1980s.

The incident has put the future of Germany's Nord Stream 2 pipeline with Russia in doubt as a growing number of polticians call for support for the project to be withdrawn unless Russia helps to clear up the circumstances around Navalny's poisioning.

Merkel's spokesman said on Monday she does not rule out imposing sanctions on the pipeline in response to the suspected poisoning.

The German leader lent her support to statements from foreign minister Heiko Maas, who over the weekend warned that Berlin could change its backing for the project, her spokesman Steffen Seibert said. It’s “too early” to determine what the consequences of the chemical attack would be, he added.

“The chancellor also holds the view that it’s wrong to rule something out from the start,” Seibert said at a regular government news conference in Berlin. 

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov did not  immediately respond to a request for comment on the statement. Earlier, Seibert said that the Kremlin sees no risk that Germany will block Nord Stream. The two leaders have not  yet spoken about the Navalny case, according to Seibert.


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