Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny, a staunch critic of President Vladimir Putin, was hospitalized in critical condition after a suspected poisoning on Thursday morning.
Navalny was on a flight to the Siberian city of Tomsk when he fell ill, and the plane made an emergency landing in Omsk where he was brought to intensive care. The hospital has so far refused to share medical details with Navalny’s personal physician, although doctors did say the opposition figure was on artificial ventilation.
“We assume that Alexei was poisoned with something mixed in his tea; it was the only thing he drank all morning,” Navalny spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh wrote on Twitter. “Now he is unconscious.”
Anatoly Kalinichenko, deputy head doctor at the First Emergency Medical Hospital in Omsk, told journalists that he could not say whether Navalny’s life was in danger.
“Poisoning is being looked at as one of the possible reasons for the deterioration of his condition,” Kalinichenko said.
Navalny has vocally criticized Putin for years, and is able to reach millions of followers through his YouTube channel. In July, Navalny led a series of protests against proposed constitutional amendments that would allow Putin to remain in power until 2036.
Putin has led Russia since he succeeded Boris Yeltsin to the presidency in 1999. Although Putin ally Dmitry Medvedev served as president from 2008 to 2012, Putin switched to the post of prime minister at the time and was widely seen as holding the reins of power.
In January 2020, Russia’s entire cabinet resigned to make way for constitutional reforms that could see Putin continue to rule the country after his term limit expires in 2024.
“The only goal of Putin and his regime is to stay in charge for life, having the entire country as his personal asset and seizing its riches for himself and his friends,” Navalny wrote on Twitter at the time.