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Russian opposition leader discharged from hospital amid ‘poisoning’ fears

Alexei Navalny has been returned to a detention facility.

Alexei Navalny (AP)
Alexei Navalny (AP)

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been discharged from a hospital even though his doctor raised suspicions of a possible poisoning.

Details about Mr Navalny’s condition were scarce after he was rushed to a hospital on Sunday morning with a suspected allergy attack from a detention facility where he was serving a 30-day sentence for calling an unsanctioned protest.

Mr Navalny was arrested several days before a major opposition rally last Saturday that ended with nearly 1,400 people detained.

Tensions were high in Moscow on Monday as dozens of protesters remained in custody and the opposition called for a new rally over the weekend.

Dr Anastasiya Vasilyeva, who has been Mr Navalny’s doctor for several years, told reporters that the politician had been discharged from the hospital and sent back to the detention facility before the necessary tests were run on him.

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Journalists gather at a hospital where Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was being treated (AP)

Doctors at the hospital initially said that Mr Navalny was taken in with a severe allergy attack, but Dr Vasilyeva said that the swelling and the rash on his face could be consistent with chemical poisoning.

The physician said that the incarceration would jeopardise Mr Navalny’s health.

“He has not fully recovered. He should have been left under medical supervision,” she told reporters outside the hospital, adding that the doctors did not even try to determine what caused the swelling and rashes on his face.

“Who are going to watch over him at the detention facility? They are not qualified to provide him with professional help.”

Dr Vasilyeva expressed concern that the chemical agent that caused the outbreak could still be there in his prison cell.

Mr Navalny’s lawyer, Olga Mikhailova, told reporters earlier in the day that that the outbreak was caused by “poisoning, by some kind of chemical substance” but that the source of it was not established.

Ms Mikhailova said he has been given anti-inflammatory steroids and that the swelling subsided.

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Journalists listen to Alexei Navalny’s lawyer Olga Mikhailova (AP)

The source of the allergic reaction or poisoning was not immediately clear.

But Navalny ally Leonid Volkov on Sunday complained about “anti-sanitary conditions” at the detention facility where he had also been detained before.

Mr Navalny has been the Kremlin’s most formidable foe since 2011 when he led a massive wave of protests against President Vladimir Putin and his party.

He has since been convicted on two sets of criminal charges, largely regarded as politically motivated, and spent numerous stints in jail for disturbing public order and leading unsanctioned protests.

Baton-wielding police on Saturday wrestled with protesters in arguably the largest unsanctioned protest in Russia in a decade.

Opposition activists as well as ordinary Muscovites took to the street to vent their anger over officials’ decision to exclude a dozen independent candidates from the ballot for the upcoming vote for the Moscow city legislature.

More than 1,400 people were taken into custody on Saturday, including several would-be candidates.

PA

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