Russian Opposition Leader Sent Back to Jail After Suspected Poisoning

July 29, 2019 Updated: July 29, 2019

MOSCOW—Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was discharged from a hospital on Monday, July 29, even though his physician raised suspicions of a possible poisoning after he suffered facial swelling and a rash while in jail.

Details about Navalny’s condition were scarce after he was rushed to a hospital Sunday with what authorities said was a suspected allergy attack inside a detention facility where he was serving a 30-day sentence for calling an unsanctioned protest. Navalny was arrested several days before a major opposition rally Saturday that ended with nearly 1,400 people detained.

Tensions are running high in Moscow as dozens of protesters remained in custody and the opposition called for a new rally next weekend.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his wife Yulia
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his wife Yulia attend his supporters’ meeting that nominated him for the presidential election race in Moscow, Russia. (Pavel Golovkin/AP Photo)

Dr. Anastasiya Vasilyeva, who has been Navalny’s physician 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.

Doctors at the hospital initially said that Navalny was taken in with a severe allergy attack, but Vasilyeva said that the swelling and the rash on his face could be consistent with chemical poisoning. The physician said the incarceration would jeopardize 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 didn’t even try to determine what caused the swelling and rash. “Who is going to watch over him at the detention facility? They are not qualified to provide him with professional help.”

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

Navalny’s attorney, Olga Mikhailova, told reporters earlier the outbreak was caused by “poisoning, by some kind of chemical substance” but that its source wasn’t established. She said he has been given anti-inflammatory steroids and that the swelling subsided.

Journalists gather at a hospital
Journalists gather at a hospital where Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny remained hospitalized, in Moscow, Russia, on July 29, 2019. (AP Photo)

The source of the allergic reaction or poisoning wasn’t immediately clear. But Navalny ally Leonid Volkov complained Sunday about “anti-sanitary conditions” at the detention facility where he also had been detained before.

Navalny is a lawyer and anti-corruption activist. He led a massive wave of protests against Putin and his party in 2011. 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.

By Nataliya Vasilyeva

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