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Kremlin Critic Navalny Was Under Surveillance During Trip To Siberia, Says Report

By RFE/RL August 23, 2020

Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny, who is being treated in a German hospital after a suspected poisoning, was under surveillance by Russian federal security agents during his recent trip to Siberia, according to a Russian newspaper report.

Officers with Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) monitored Navalny's movements, the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets said, 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," Navalny spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said on Twitter on August 23. "What is surprising about the report is that they did not hesitate to tell everyone about it."

Yarmysh said on August 20 that she believed the politician was poisoned when he drank tea purchased at the Tomsk airport.

Jaka Bizilj, founder of the Cinema for Peace Foundation, which arranged Navalny's evacuation flight out of Russia, was quoted by the Bild newspaper as saying he believes 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," Jaka 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, 44, was evacuated to Germany from the Siberian city of 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.

The hospital said in a statement that it would provide an update about his condition and further treatment once tests have been completed and after consulting with his family.

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 Aleksei's health," Volkov wrote in 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.

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 for what they regard as more reliable, effective, and transparent treatment.

The Russian doctors treating him had refused for hours to allow him to leave, arguing that he was not fit to travel.

With reporting by Current Time, Moskovsky Komsomolets, Reuters, dpa, and the Washington Post

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/kremlin-critic-navalny -was-under-surveillance-during-trip-to -siberia-says-report/30798146.html

Copyright (c) 2020. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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