Hospital says top Putin critic is out of coma, responsive

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The German hospital treating Alexei Navalny, a vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said it was able to take him out of a medically-induced coma Monday.

Navalny became ill on a domestic flight in late August and was flown to Germany. He is believed to have been poisoned by the same nerve agent suspected in the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal.

“The patient has been removed from his medically induced coma and is being weaned off mechanical ventilation,” Berlin’s Charite hospital said in a statement, according to The Associated Press. ”He is responding to verbal stimuli. It remains too early to gauge the potential long-term effects of his severe poisoning.”

The hospital made the announcement the day after German officials indicated a planned German-Russian gas pipeline agreement might be at stake if Russia does not thoroughly investigate the case.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Germany could pull its backing for the Baltic Sea pipeline if it feels the Kremlin is not taking the investigation seriously.

“The chancellor also believes that it’s wrong to rule anything out,” Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters Monday, in reference to Maas’ comments.

Seibert added that Merkel’s office does not necessarily expect Russia to respond within days.

“I can’t express a clear, time-limited expectation, except that we are certainly not talking about months or the end of the year,” he said, according to the AP.

Robert Habeck, leader of Germany’s Green Party, said the pipeline should be abandoned regardless, saying it “divides Europe, it is economically nonsensical and oversized, and it is wrong in security policy terms.”

Allowing the project to go forward, he said, “would mean that Russia can do what it wants. This signal must not be sent.”

Mikhail Ulyanov, the Russian envoy to international organizations in Vienna, suggested without evidence that opponents of the pipeline were somehow connected to the Navalny incident.

“Suspicious coincidence of Navalny case and the final stage of Nord Stream 2 construction, which some states desperately want to be closed. I am not fond of conspiracy theories but it is obvious that the tragic events with Navalny are very timely and helpful for opponents of [the pipeline],” he tweeted.

Tags alexei navalny Poisoning Russia Vladimir Putin

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