Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny has been discharged from hospital after his near-fatal poisoning and could potentially make a complete recovery, according to the German hospital which has been treating him since last month.
Now he and his team must weigh their next moves.
Navalny became gravely ill on a flight from the Siberian city of Tomsk to Moscow on August 20. He was initially hospitalized in the city of Omsk, before being flown to Berlin’s Charité Hospital two days later.
“The patient’s condition has improved sufficiently for him to be discharged from acute inpatient care,” said a statement from Berlin’s Charité Hospital released Wednesday, a day after the Kremlin critic left hospital.
“Alexey Navalny has been receiving treatment at Charité for a total of 32 days, of which 24 days were spent in intensive care,” it said. “Based on the patient’s progress and current condition, the treating physicians believe that complete recovery is possible. However, it remains too early to gauge the potential long-term effects of his severe poisoning.”
The German government has said Navalny was poisoned with a chemical agent from the Soviet-era Novichok group, a conclusion supported by two other labs in France and Sweden.
The Kremlin has strongly denied any involvement, but multiple questions remain.
Novichok was also used in a March 2018 attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in the English city of Salisbury and multiple Russian dissidents have been poisoned in the past.
In an update posted on Instagram on Saturday, Navalny had said he was still unable to use his phone properly or pour himself a glass of water, but was on a “clear road” to recovery. He posted a picture of himself walking down a staircase, writing that he was regaining his physical and mental capacity.
Two days later, the politician demanded that Russian authorities return the clothes he was wearing on the day he fell ill.
“Before they allowed me to go to Germany, they took all my clothes off and I was sent there completely naked,” he said in a statement. “Taking into account the fact that Novichok was found on my body, and a contact method of poisoning is very likely, my clothes are very important material evidence.”
Monday’s statement coincided with the expiration date of a preliminary probe into the incident by Russian authorities, which did not result in a criminal investigation. Navalny’s spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, said the Russian government had turned a blind eye to the incident.
Last week, Navalny’s aides said they had taken items from his Tomsk hotel room to Germany, where a lab later found traces of a nerve agent on one of the water bottles he apparently drank from.
Navalny’s colleague who collected the items in Tomsk, chief investigator Georgy Alburov, previously told CNN the water bottle was not necessarily the item used to poison the Kremlin critic, suggesting the substance could have been placed on a different object.
Next moves for Navalny’s team
Navalny’s sudden illness, as he was returning to Moscow from campaigning in Siberia, caught his team at a critical moment.
He and his campaign had been gearing up for regional elections and a test-drive of their tactical vote project in attempts to hurt the ruling pro-Kremlin party. The cities of Tomsk and Novosibirsk in Siberia were only the first stops on Navalny’s planned tour across Russia and several anti-corruption investigations were in the works.
Now Russia’s opposition must consider its next moves as Navalny begins an arduous recovery from intensive care – and as Russia heads to parliamentary elections next year.
In an emotional post on Instagram this week, the activist credited his wife’s support for saving his life, saying “I know a lot more about love than I did a month ago.”
The suspected poisoning also put his ambitious plans on pause.
Navalny rolled out his “Smart Voting” campaign two years ago, in the run-up to local parliament elections in Russia’s two biggest cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg. The project urges voters to cast ballots for a single candidate best placed to beat an incumbent from United Russia – a pro-Kremlin ruling party Putin used as a platform to run on before its image was marred by corruption scandals, many exposed by Navalny and his Anti-Corruption Foundation, the FBK.
In 2019, many independent candidates were barred from running in Moscow City Duma elections, resulting in the largest protests the capital has seen since the early 2010s.