Navalny's Condition Said Improved, But Kremlin Critic's Spokeswoman Has Doubts
By RFE/RL September 10, 2020
The German magazine Der Spiegel has reported that hospitalized Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny has made further progress in his recovery from poisoning with a nerve agent and is said to be able to speak, although a Navalny spokeswoman appeared to downplay the report.
The Kremlin critic is being treated in Berlin's Charite hospital after becoming seriously ill on a Russian domestic flight last month. Germany has demanded Russia explain the affair, though Russia denies any involvement.
"Der Spiegel and Bellingcat understand that Navalny can speak again and can likely remember details about his collapse," the magazine wrote, crediting its investigative website partner. "His statements could be dangerous for people behind the attack."
The German magazine said Navalny's police protection had been stepped up in the expectation that he would be receiving more visitors as his condition improved.
The Insider, a Russian investigative website also involved in the report, said Navalny remembered events up to the illness.
However, Navalny spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh appeared to downplay the report.
"In connection with the latest material about Aleksei: that he is conscious and reacting to those around him, we reported that already on Monday, but, in general, the article is very exaggerated and contained many factual errors," Yarmysh wrote on Twitter, without explicitly citing the Der Spiegel article.
There was no immediate comment by the hospital treating Navalny.
The affair has added fresh tensions between Russia and the West.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on September 9 that there was a "substantial chance" his poisoning was ordered by senior Russian officials.
Pompeo said people around the world "see this kind of activity for what it is. And when they see the effort to poison a dissident, and they recognize that there is a substantial chance that this actually came from senior Russian officials, I think this is not good for the Russian people."
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on September 10 that Moscow viewed that statement as "unacceptable."
Berlin is facing calls for a sharper response to the poisoning. Some opposition politicians have called for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany to be cancelled, even as it nears completion.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte was quoted on September 10 as saying Russian President Vladimir Putin had told him he would set up a committee to investigate Navalny's case and "was ready to collaborate with the German authorities."
Peskov later on September 10 appeared to deny that report, saying the Italian minister's remarks could have been based on a "misunderstanding."
Peskov told reporters that Moscow still saw no grounds to open a criminal case into the illness of Navalny.
Peskov said Russia had not seen solid evidence of his alleged poisoning and that it had not received any medical data from Germany.
With reporting by Reuters, Spiegel, Die Zeit, The Insider, and Meduza
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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