Russian opposition leader hospitalized after suspected poisoning

Russian opposition leader hospitalized after suspected poisoning
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A prominent Russian opposition leader was placed in an intensive care unit in a Siberian hospital on Thursday after a suspected poisoning, the politician's spokeswoman said in a series of tweets.

Aleksei Navalny, an anti-corruption activist and outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinBiden administration resists tougher Russia sanctions in Congress More than 50 dead, one rescued in Russian mine explosion NATO to discuss ways to deter Russia: Lithuanian official MORE, was hospitalized after his plane, which was returning to Moscow from the Siberian city Tomsk, made an emergency landing in Omsk, Navalny spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said. She said that the plane made the emergency landing because Navalny "felt bad." 

"We assume that Alexei was poisoned with something mixed into the tea," Yarmysh said. "It was the only thing that he drank in the morning. Doctors say the toxin was absorbed faster through the hot liquid. Alexei is now unconscious."

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A photo shared on social media showed Navalny drinking from a paper cup at the airport cafeteria in Tomsk, according to The New York Times

Officials at the hospital in Omsk told a Russian news agency that Navalny was in "serious condition," the Times noted. Anatoly Kalinichenko, a doctor at the hospital, reportedly said that poisoning was being considered as a potential cause of Navalny's health status. 

Yarmysh also addressed suggestions that Navalny's illness was not caused by intentional poisoning, asking, "if law enforcement agencies do not consider the version with intentional poisoning, why are there so many cops in the hospital?"

A passenger who was on Navalny's flight said the political leader was "screaming in pain" as the plane made an emergency landing, according to multiple reports.

Navalny was reportedly in Siberia as part of an effort to establish greater support outside of Moscow for his opposition movement. Before the flight, he met with other opposition candidates who were running in upcoming local elections. 

Navalny has been jailed several times for organizing protests against the Kremlin, according to Reuters. He was arrested last year after organizing an unauthorized protest opposing a decision to bar some local candidates from running in Moscow’s city council elections. 

There has yet to be any independent confirmation verifying the claim of Navalny's poisoning. 

However, Russian authorities have been suspected of targeting a number of politicians and other officials. Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military officer who acted as a double agent in the United Kingdom, was poisoned in England in 2018. Aleksandr Litvinenko, a former Russian spy, died in 2005 after what was labeled a "serious poisoning."