Russian dissident flown to Berlin for treatment from suspected poisoning

FILE: AFP / Dimitar DILKOFF

An ambulance aircraft carrying gravely ill Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny landed at Berlin's Tegel airport on Saturday morning, according to flight tracking data.

German doctors had flown on Friday to the Siberian city of Omsk to evacuate Navalny, a long-time opponent of President Vladimir Putin, at the request of his wife and allies who said that the hospital treating him was badly equipped.

Navalny was delivered to Omsk airport in an ambulance and his plane took off two hours later, a Reuters witness said. Kira Yarmysh, Navalny's spokeswoman, said his wife Yulia was also on board.

Navalny, a long-time campaigner against corruption, collapsed on a plane on Thursday after drinking tea that his allies believe was laced with poison.

His allies said they feared authorities might try to cover up clues as to how he fell ill.

Navalny, 44, 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 is expected to be rushed to Berlin's Charite hospital, about 10 km (6.2 miles) from Tegel airport, where he will receive further treatment.

Two years ago, Pyotr Verzilov, another anti-Kremlin activist and a member of the Pussy Riot art collective, was treated at the same hospital in Berlin after he was poisoned in Moscow.

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.

They later said they had no objections after the German doctors deemed him fit for travel.

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.

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