Report: Russian Dissident Alexei Navalny Improving, May Soon Be Able to Discuss Mystery Illness

A still image taken from an AFPTV footage shows opposition leader Alexei Navalny attending a rally calling for a boycott of March 18 presidential elections, Moscow, January 28, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Alexandra Dalsbaek (Photo credit should read ALEXANDRA DALSBAEK/AFP/Getty Images)
ALEXANDRA DALSBAEK/AFP/Getty Images

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s condition has improved and he is now able to discuss the poisoning attack that nearly killed him with doctors and investigators German media reported on Thursday.

The Russian government continued to refuse calls for a full investigation, specifically refuting a claim by Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte that the Kremlin was preparing to establish a commission to probe Navalny’s case.

CBS News noted that Navalny’s team was less optimistic about his condition than Germany’s Der Spiegel, which quoted anonymous reports that “Navalny can speak again and can likely remember details about his collapse on board the plane.” 

Navalny was aboard a Siberia to Moscow flight on August 20 when he became suddenly and severely ill, lapsing into a coma from which he only recently awakened. Russian doctors claimed his condition was natural, theorizing he suffered from complications due to low blood sugar, but he was airlifted to Berlin and examined by German doctors who concluded he had been poisoned with the signature Russian nerve agent Novichok.

According to Der Spiegel’s sources, Navalny has been given additional security protection at the Charite hospital in Berlin now that he is awake and able to receive visitors. His spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh concurred that he is “conscious and reacting to those around him,” but claimed Der Spiegel’s report was “very exaggerated and contained many factual errors.” 

The Charite hospital and German police officials did not offer any immediate comment on the report.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced on Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin “planned to establish a commission for the investigation” of Navalny’s case and was ready to “work with the German authorities.” He based this claim on remarks Putin made to him during a telephone conversation.

The Kremlin quickly denied Conte’s assertion and suggested the Italian prime minister “misunderstood” what Putin was telling him. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted the Russian government has seen no evidence that Navalny was poisoned and would not authorize an investigation until Germany shares Navalny’s medical data with Moscow.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday there is a “substantial chance” that the order to poison Navalny “came from senior Russian officials.” 

Peskov responded that Pompeo’s allegations were “unacceptable,” while the Russian Foreign Ministry likewise protested “unfounded accusations and ultimatums against Russia” from the German government.

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