Vladimir Putin foe Alexei Navalny has been taken to Germany for medical treatment after he was left in a coma following a suspected poisoning.
The plane left a German hospital in the Siberian city of Omsk this morning following prolonged wrangling over the dissident’s condition and treatment.
Mr Navalny, a 44-year-old politician and corruption investigator who is one of the Russian President’s fiercest critics, was admitted to an intensive care unit in Omsk on Thursday.
He had collapsed on a plane on the same day after drinking tea that his allies believe was laced with poison.
German doctors flew in to evacuate Navalny at the request of his wife and allies who said they feared authorities might try to cover up clues as to how he fell ill and that the hospital treating him was badly equipped.
His supporters believe that tea he drank was laced with poison – and that the Kremlin is behind his illness.
Kira Yarmysh, Navalny’s spokeswoman, wrote on Twitter : “The fight for Alexei’s life and health is just beginning and there is a long way to go, but at least the first step has been taken.”
Medical staff at the Omsk hospital initially said on Friday that while Navalny’s condition had improved slightly overnight he was in too unstable a state to be safely transported out of the country.
But last night they said they would not object to him being moved after the German doctors were granted access to Navalny and said they thought he was fit to travel.
A senior doctor at the hospital, Anatoly Kalinichenko, said the hospital could help transport Navalny to the airport and that he would be moved within several hours.
“We have taken the decision that we do not object to him being transferred to a different hospital,” Kalinichenko said.
Navalny’s wife Yulia earlier sent a letter to the Kremlin directly appealing for it to intervene and grant permission for him to be allowed to be flown out.
“It’s a shame it took so long for the doctors to make this decision. The plane has been waiting since morning, the documents were also ready then,” Navalny’s spokeswoman said.
Alexander Murakhovsky, the head doctor at the hospital, said earlier that Navalny had been diagnosed with a metabolic disease that may have been caused by low blood sugar.
He said traces of industrial chemical substances had been found on Navalny’s clothes and fingers and that doctors did not believe he had been poisoned.
Navalny has been a thorn in the Kremlin’s side for more than a decade, exposing what he says is high-level graft and mobilising crowds of young protesters.
He has been repeatedly detained for organising public meetings and rallies and sued over his investigations into corruption. He was barred from running in a presidential election in 2018.