Russian doctors have agreed to allow the country’s opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is in a coma after a suspected poisoning, to leave the country for treatment.
The prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin is fighting for his life on a ventilator after drinking tea that his supporters believe was laced with poison.
And having previously refused his transfer to Germany, the deputy chief doctor of the Omsk hospital in Siberia where he was being treated said medics had now granted permission for his transfer abroad.
Anatoly Kalinichenko said doctors had decided that “we don’t oppose his transfer to another hospital.”
He said Mr Navalny‘s condition had “stabilised” but that his wife and brother “took the risks on themselves” for his transfer.
The 44-year-old’s spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, indicated the plane transporting him would not leave for another seven hours, which would be at around 6am local time (1am UK time)
She previously welcomed the news Russian officials were set to reverse their decision.
“It is a pity that it took the doctors so long to make this decision,” she added.
A plane, complete with a coma-specialist team on board, has been sent from Germany, to take him to Berlin.
Jaka Bizilj, founder of the Cinema For Peace human rights charity that organised the plane, said: “I understand he’s still unconscious, but they’re used to such special assignments and they (German doctors) say very clearly he can fly and they want to fly him.”
The politician and corruption investigator, who is one of Mr Putin’s fiercest critics, was admitted to an intensive care unit in Omsk on Thursday.
His supporters believe that the Kremlin is behind him being poisoned.
They have suggested delays to his transfer abroad were designed to allow enough time for any poison to leave his system.
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Russian doctors treating him had insisted there was no evidence he was deliberately poisoned – having previously put his condition down to metabolic disease caused by low blood sugar.
Russian news agency Interfax later quoted officials in Omsk as saying tests had identified the presence of an industrial chemical in his body.
Russia‘s Ministry of Internal Affairs told the agency that since the substance they claim was present is commonly used to increase plasticity in products, “it is possible that it could appear in surface washings through the contact of Alexei Navalny with similar objects, for example, through a plastic cup”.
Studies have previously shown that the chemical officials were referring to – 2-ethylhexyl diphenyl phosphate – does not have a strong toxic effect on humans.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had earlier denied the resistance to him being transported abroad was political, claiming it was purely a medical decision.
“It may pose a threat to his health,” Mr Peskov said.