The head doctor of the hospital in the Siberian city of Omsk that treated Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny has denied that medical personnel there had come under outside pressure from local authorities.
Navalny, who is being treated in a Berlin hospital after a suspected poisoning, was flown to Germany on August 22 after Russian doctors initially refused to allow him to be moved from the hospital, saying he was not in a fit state to be transported for treatment.
The evacuation flight followed a daylong battle by Navalny’s family and supporters to get Russian authorities to agree to allow him to go to the West.
Aleksandr Murakhovsky, the head doctor at Omsk Emergency Hospital No. 1, denied there had been any pressure — saying the medical personnel promptly transported Navalny from the airport to the hospital upon his arrival in Omsk.
“We treated the patient and we saved him. There was no interference in the treatment of the patient and there could not be any,” Murakhovsky told a news conference in Omsk on August 24.
“The patient had a personal doctor, all decisions were made in a collegial manner, and every consultation involved up to 10 doctors from various institutions,” Murakhovsky said.
When questioned about why law enforcement officers were present at the Omsk hospital, Murakhovsky said he could not say who it was and “cannot say they were doing something.”
Navalny’s allies had accused doctors of holding up his evacuation to Germany, but the deputy chief of the Omsk hospital, Anatoly Kalinichenko, said August 24 that Russian doctors had saved his life.
“In my opinion, the [work] conducted by us was successful, we saved a life, stabilized [his condition], conducted a wide diagnostic search, arrived at, in our opinion, a correct diagnosis which allowed us to stabilize him and, per the relatives’ wishes, got the patient to a condition when we decided that we could relatively safely allow to transport him,” Kalinichenko said.
“I did not coordinate a single diagnosis with anyone,” Kalinichenko said. “There was no pressure.”
Murakhovsky said German doctors treating Navalny in Berlin told him that “his condition is stable and that they will be glad to inform us about his health,” without giving more details.
Navalny, 44, was evacuated to Germany from Omsk in the ambulance aircraft arranged by the Cinema for Peace Foundation. He has been in an induced coma since he fell ill on August 20 during a flight from the Siberian city of Tomsk to Moscow. The plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Omsk when Navalny became ill.
Jaka Bizilj, founder of the Cinema for Peace Foundation, which arranged Navalny’s evacuation flight out of Russia, was quoted by Bild newspaper as saying he believes the Russian opposition leader will survive the “poison attack” but not without consequences to his health.
“From my point of view, the crucial question is whether he will survive this unscathed and continue to play his role,” Bizilj told the German tabloid in a video interview on August 23. “If he survives this unscathed, which we all hope, he will surely still be out of the political arena for at least a month or two.”
German police on August 23 beefed up security at the hospital in Berlin where Navalny is being treated. Social-media posts showed police increasing their presence around the hospital.
Navalny has been classified as a guest of German Chancellor Angela Merkel as a means to ensure that he receives the best possible police protection, according to German state broadcaster ZDF.
Navalny spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said earlier she believed the politician was poisoned when he drank tea purchased at the Tomsk airport before he boarded the plane bound for Moscow.
According to a Russian newspaper report, Navalny was under surveillance by Russian federal security agents during his recent trip to Siberia.
Officers with Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) monitored Navalny’s movements, the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets reported, citing information from sources in Russian security agencies. The surveillance involved plainclothes officers and CCTV cameras, the newspaper said.
The report provides details about where he stayed, what he and his associates ate, and information about his movements. The newspaper said it was significant that in Tomsk his entourage stayed in a hotel, where they rented more rooms than they required and Navalny did not stay in the room that was registered in his name.
“The scale of surveillance does not surprise me at all. We were perfectly aware of it before,” Yarmysh said on Twitter on August 23. “What is surprising about the report is that they did not hesitate to tell everyone about it.”
In an apparent response to rumors around Navalny’s condition, Yarmysh urged everyone to ignore any statements and media reports about his condition unless it comes from her or doctors.
“Verified information about Aleksei’s condition can only come from the doctors of the hospital or from me. At the moment, there are no new details about Alexei’s health,” the spokeswoman wrote on Twitter.
“We ask everyone to be patient and not react to false messages. As soon as verified information appears, we will immediately let you know,” Yarmysh said.
Leonid Volkov, a top aide to Navalny, said on August 23 that businessman and philanthropist Boris Zimin and his family’s fund paid for Navalny’s flight to Germany.
“What seemed almost impossible yesterday morning, when Omsk categorically refused to give permission for transportation, is now behind us, Volkov said. “Both the doctors of the Charite clinic and the doctors of the intensive care aviation supported the decision on transportation and recognized it as correct for Alexei’s health,” Volkov wrote on Facebook.
The flight would not have been possible, he said, without “the work and the help of a huge number of people, many of whom spent 48 sleepless hours from Thursday morning to Saturday morning.”
Volkov thanked Boris Zimin, the Zimin family fund, the German government, and Merkel for providing international support. According to Volkov, it is too early to make predictions about Navalny’s health.