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Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny 'poisoned'

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny 'poisoned'
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was placed on a ventilator Thursday in an intensive care unit at a Siberian hospital due to suspected poisoning. File Photo by Yuri Kochetkov/EPA-EFE

Aug. 20 (UPI) -- Russian opposition leader and critic of the Putin regime Alexei Navalny is unconscious at a Siberian hospital with suspected poisoning, his spokeswoman said.

Navalny, 44, was on a flight from Tomsk to Moscow when he fell ill, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing in Omsk, his spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said on Twitter.

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"We assume that Alexei was poisoned with something mixed into the tea," she said. "It was the only thing that he drank in the morning. Doctors say the toxin was absorbed faster through the hot liquid. Alexei is now unconscious."

She said he was on a ventilator in intensive care.

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The hospital's chief physician, Alexander Murakhovsky, told Russian state-run news agency TASS that Navalny was in serious condition.

Last year, Navalny suggested he was poisoned while under police custody.

Yarmysh said "obviously" this was the same thing, adding that the intensive care unit was full of police who have tried to retrieve an explanation from the doctor.

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"The doctor saw me in the distance in the corridor, said that 'some things are confidential,' and took the police to another room," she said. "The evasive reaction of the doctors only confirms that this is poisoning. Just two hours ago, they were ready to share any information, and now they are clearly playing for time and do not say what they know."

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Navalny, his non-profit organization and his close supporters have repeatedly been the target of Russian law enforcement over their opposition to the Kremlin, resulting in their arrests and raids on their homes and places of work.

Last October, Russia's justice ministry classified Navalny's Anti-Corruption Fund as a foreign agent for receiving international funds, a claim it denies.

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