Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny.
Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny.
PIC: AFP

Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny is in a coma and on a ventilator in a hospital intensive care unit after falling ill from suspected poisoning that his allies believe is linked to his political activity. The 44-year-old foe of Russia's President Vladimir Putin felt unwell on a flight back to Moscow from Tomsk, a city in Siberia, and was taken to a hospital after the plane made an emergency landing in Omsk, Navalny's spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said on Twitter.

She told the Echo Moskvy radio station he must have consumed something from tea he drank at an airport cafe before boarding the plane early Thursday.

During the flight, Navalny started sweating and asked her to talk to him so that he could "focus on a sound of a voice." He then went to the bathroom and lost consciousness.

"Looks like Putin is doing really badly - was handed some data on protest sentiment growing explosively - if he made the decision to poison Navalny," the politician's close ally Vladimir Milov said in a tweet.

Navalny is currently being treated at the Omsk ambulance hospital ?1, he is in a coma in grave condition. Doctors at the hospital remain tight-lipped about his diagnosis.

Anatoliy Kalinichenko, deputy chief doctor of the hospital, told reporters that Navalny was in grave, yet stable condition. Kalinichenko said doctors are considering a variety of diagnosis, including poisoning, but refused to give details, citing a law preventing doctors from disclosing confidential patient information.

State news agency Tass reported that police were not considering deliberate poisoning, citing an anonymous source in law enforcement who said "it is not unlikely that he drank or consumed something yesterday himself." Yarmysh on Twitter bristled at that suggestion: "Of course. It's just the tea was bad. This is what the state propaganda is going to do now - yell that there was no deliberate poisoning, he (did something) accidentally, he (did something) himself." Navalny's doctor Yaroslav Ashikhmin told the independent Meduza outlet that he is trying to arrange his transfer to a clinic in Hanover or Strasbourg, saying that medics in Europe not only can offer better treatment, but also figure out which toxin Navalny was poisoned with.

Last year, Navalny was rushed to a hospital from prison where he was serving a sentence following an administrative arrest, with what his team said was suspected poisoning.

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