The German hospital where Russia’s most prominent opposition leader Alexei Navalny is being treated has run tests that confirm what was widely suspected: that he was likely poisoned.
The Charité hospital said in a statement Monday morning that the team of doctors who have been treating Navalny since he arrived from Russia this weekend have found evidence of “cholinesterase inhibitors” in his system. Nerve agents are among the poisons that can inhibit cholinesterase—but the hospital’s statement cautioned that its doctors have yet to identify the exact substance that has caused Navalny’s hospitalization.
In the latest update on his condition, the hospital said the Putin critic remains in intensive care with no “acute danger to his life” as of Monday morning, but warned that his prognosis remains “uncertain.” “Long-term consequences, especially in the area of the nervous system, cannot be ruled out at this point in time,” the hospital added.
Navalny was transported out of Siberia to Berlin on Saturday after he fell ill due to the suspected poisoning of his tea last week. His relatives insisted he be moved after a top doctor at the Siberian hospital where he was being treated claimed that Navalny was not poisoned, raising suspicions that the medics were being directed by the Kremlin.
Navalny’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh reacted to the hospital’s latest statement with a tweet that read: “We’ve said that Alexei was poisoned from the very beginning despite the statements from the Omsk doctors and government propagandists... Now our words have been confirmed by analyses by an independent laboratory. Navalny’s poisoning is not a hypothesis, it is a fact.”
Although it’s still unclear exactly what substance caused Navalny’s sickness, the test results heighten existing fears that it was some kind of nerve agent—a family of highly toxic chemicals that prevent the body’s nervous system from working as it should.
Dan Kaszeta, a former chemical and biological weapons adviser to the White House, wrote following the hospital’s statement Monday morning: “It may very well have been a nerve agent of some description that got Navalny. In which case, Omsk [the hospital in Siberia] was negligent and should've picked up on it. Could be any one of a number of organophosphate or carbamate compounds, not just the military agents.”
Meanwhile, the German government has confirmed that Navalny is now under military protection due to the suspected poisoning. “The suspicion is that Mr. Navalny was poisoned given that unfortunately recent Russian history has had several such suspected cases,” said Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief spokesman, Steffen Seibert. He added: “Because one can say with near certainty that it was a poisoning attack, protection is necessary.”
As yet, Russia has made no comment on the German statement or on the test results from the German hospital.