The health of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is improving, and he now has been taken out of an induced coma and is responsive, the German hospital treating him said Monday.
Navalny, a sharp critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was flown to Berlin on August 22, two days after falling ill on a domestic flight in Russia. German chemical weapons experts said tests showed he had been poisoned with a Soviet-era nerve agent from the Novichok group, a claim Russia has rejected.
Berlin’s Charite hospital said the 44-year-old Navalny’s condition has improved, allowing doctors to end the medically induced coma he had been in and gradually ease him off mechanical ventilation.
The hospital statement said Navalny was responding to speech but that “long-term consequences of the serious poisoning can still not be ruled out.”
Germany said last week that laboratory tests showed “proof without doubt” that he had been poisoned with the chemical nerve agent. British authorities identified Novichok as the poison used on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England in 2018.
Germany has demanded an explanation from Moscow about Navalny’s poisoning. But the Kremlin has rejected claims by Navalny’s allies that the government was involved as “empty noise.”
As the Navalny case plays out, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office indicated Monday that she might be willing to reconsider its support for a controversial German-Russian gas pipeline project, which would bring Russian gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea, bypassing Ukraine.
Previously, Merkel had insisted on “decoupling” the Navalny case from the pipeline project.