1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Russia opposition leader may have been poisoned: doctor

July 29, 2019

A Russian doctor has said the opposition leader's symptoms suggest that he might have been targeted with a "toxic agent." Berlin has urged Moscow to release over 1,300 prisoners arrested during Navalny-backed protests.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny steps out of a police bus
Image: Getty Images/AFP/V. Maximov

Navalny's doctor: 'The patient should be under observation at a hospital'

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny's personal doctor, Anastasiya Vasilyeva, said Monday that an unidentified "toxic agent" may have caused his health to deteriorate while in police custody. Navalny was rushed to a Moscow hospital on Sunday but was since reported to be in "satisfactory condition" and taken back to jail.

"He was poisoned by some sort of unknown chemical substance; it's unclear whether what he has is contact dermatitis or not, but he was in a life-threatening condition," she told reporters. 

"And now they are sending him back to the same place where that same toxic, chemical substance might be again."

The ophthalmologist said she was "categorically" opposed to moving Navalny out of the hospital.

"This was a chemical substance — even the doctors here have admitted that," she said.

Navalny's lawyer, Olga Mikhailova, supported that assumption, saying: "It is indeed poisoning."

'What you are talking about has not been proven'

Navalny developed what authorities described as an "allergic reaction" while serving a 30-day jail sentence for promoting a banned protest march.

Vasilyeva complained that she wasn't given access to Navalny to examine him, saying hospital workers behaved strangely when she approached them.

The hospital said "he simply has hives... why are [they] lying?" she asked. "They have decided against establishing the cause of generalized oedema and rash."

However, hospital doctor Elena Sibikina provided a different perspective when asked by a reporter about risks of sending Navalny back to jail.

"What you are talking about has not been proven," she said. "We have our own medical opinion, which we noted in our discharge summary."

Sibikina said that the rest of the diagnosis was confidential and that Navalny is free to disclose what the doctors told him.

The medical chief of the hospital, Olga Sharapova, is reportedly a lawmaker for the ruling United Russia party.

Read more: Alexei Navalny: The opposition leader captivating Russia's youth


Russian police in Moscow arrested more than 1,300 people on Saturday for their participating in an unauthorized rally against a decision to bar several independent candidates from running in upcoming city elections. The German government has called for their immediate release, saying the police response was "disproportionate."

Navalny, a critic of President Vladimir Putin and the most visible face of Russia's opposition movement, is regularly arrested for calling on protesters to demonstrate against corruption and non-liberal government policies.

He challenged Putin in the 2018 presidential elections but failed to make a stand after a Russian court banned him from participating over a criminal conviction for alleged financial crimes that he described as politically motivated.

Human rights organizations have called on Russian authorities to end their crackdown on the opposition. "All legitimate candidates should be allowed to participate and free and fair elections must be guaranteed in Moscow," said Council of Europe spokesman Daniel Holtgen.

Read more: Russians rally for independent candidates to stand in elections

Every evening, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.

dj, ls/amp (AFP, AP, Reuters)