It was reported earlier in the day that Navalny had been hospitalised shortly after boarding a flight from the Russian city of Tomsk to the capital Moscow. According to the chief doctor at a hospital in Omsk, he is in an intensive care unit and on a ventilator.
An eyewitness on the same flight with Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny, who was hospitalised earlier today and is now in a coma, has revealed what happened on board the Moscow-bound plane that was forced to make an urgent landing in the city of Omsk.
According to Pavel Lebedev, when the plane gained altitude the political activist went to the restroom and did not return for a long time.
“I thought he had already returned to his seat, and I just missed him. I had my headphones on and writing music. Suddenly I realised something happened, I took my headphones off and I heard that we are making an emergency landing in Omsk. I thought someone got sick, I turned my head and I see Navalny lying on the floor”, Lebedev said.
Lebedev said on his Instagram he saw Navalny sitting in a café in the airport with his friends, where “he was drinking something, probably tea, I don’t know”.
It was previously reported that before boarding the plane, Navalny drank tea in the airport café “Viennese coffeehouse”. The café’s administrator said he is cooperating with an investigation to establish the circumstances surrounding the incident.
What is known so far?
Earlier on Thursday, Navalny was admitted to an intensive care unit in serious condition where he was put on an artificial lung ventilator.
A team of health experts from all fields are trying to establish a diagnosis for the political activist, however, Navalny’s press secretary Kira Yarmysh has already alleged that he could have been poisoned as tea was the only thing he had this morning.
Yarmysh further claimed that Navalny could also have been poisoned in 2019 when he was hospitalised with an allergic reaction from a detention centre, where he was being held for calling on his supporters to participate in an unauthorised protest over the Russian authorities’ decision to ban independent candidates form participating in elections to the Moscow City Duma after they failed to gather the needed amount of valid signatures to get on the ballot.
At the time, his team speculated that it was “poisoning by an unknown chemical substance”, however, no traces of poison were found in the blood samples.
Alexei Navalny, a Russian opposition figure, is the founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), that made several investigative movies about Russian officials, including former Russian Prime Minister Dmitriy Medvedev, accusing them of corruption. They have denied these claims.
Last month, Navalny announced that he would shut down his FBK following a series of controversies around its activities, including an investigation into the suspected laundering of around 1 billion roubles ($15.3 million).
Navalny, who himself was arrested on embezzlement charges in two separate cases and received suspended sentences, announced his intention to run for the presidency during the 2018 election but was barred by Russia’s Central Electoral Commission due to his previous convictions.