Navalny under police protection from German state at Berlin hospital

By Joerg Ratzsch, dpa

Prominent Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny is under German state protection from police while being treated at a Berlin hospital for suspected poisoning in Siberia, the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) told dpa on Sunday.

“The state has initially taken over the police protection of Alexei Navalny,” a government spokesman said.

Germany’s criminal police office are responsible for protection of government officials, as well as foreign guests during state visits.

Navalny, who is still fighting for his life, was taken ill on a flight to Moscow on Thursday and flown to Germany on Saturday for emergency treatment at Berlin’s Charite hospital.

His team says he was poisoned in Siberia. Russian doctors have said he could be suffering from a metabolic disorder.

Meanwhile the film producer who organized a Siberia-to-Berlin transport for the Russian opposition politician said he believes Navalny will survive.

“From my point of view, the crucial question is whether he will survive this unscathed and continue to play his role,” Jaka Bizilj told German tabloid Bild in a video interview on Sunday.

“If he survives this unscathed, which we all hope, he will surely still be out of the political arena for at least a month or two,” added.

Navalny’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh was surprised about the film producer’s comments, noting that no-one has access to information about his condition at the moment – especially someone outside the family circle.

“Alexei’s family has not asked anyone to report anything to the press about his health,” she wrote in the Telegram news channel early Monday morning.

“At the moment there are no new details about Alexei’s health. We ask everyone to be patient and not to react to untrue communications,” she added. Authorized information could only be given by the doctors or by herself, Yarmysh emphasized.

Navalny was reportedly being closely watched by the authorities ahead of what his supporters claim was a life-threatening poisoning earlier this week.

“The extent of the surveillance does not surprise me at all, we were already aware of it,” Navalny’s spokesperson Kira Yarmysh had earlier said on Twitter. “But it is astonishing that they did not hesitate to tell everyone about it,” she added.

Yarmysh’s comments came in response to a report by the Moscow tabloid Moskovsky Komsomolets detailing Navalny’s movements in the days before he was taken seriously ill and slipped into a coma on Thursday.

Citing unnamed security officials who admitted they had been following Navalny, the report lists where Navalny and his team stayed, whom he spoke with and even what they ate during a trip through Siberia.

The article claims that given the level of surveillance Navalny was under, he could only have been poisoned at the airport or on the plane.

Navalny’s staff initially said they would make a statement on Sunday at 1600 GMT on their internet channel, but during the day announced that this would happen “later.”

Navalny has been repeatedly arrested and jailed, and his team’s offices raided in the past.

After landing at Berlin’s Tegel airport on Saturday, Navalny was taken in a military intensive care vehicle to Berlin’s Charite hospital, which lies in the centre of the German capital.

The hospital said it had begun “extensive” diagnostic tests on Navalny. A hospital spokesperson said there would be no official comment on Navalny’s status before Monday.

The German government official in charge of relations with Russia, Dirk Wiese, on Sunday demanded a full explanation of the circumstances surrounding Navalny’s illness.

“There is an accusation of poisoning. The rapid deterioration in Navalny’s health condition needs to be plausibly and transparently clarified with the Russian authorities’ cooperation,” he told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland group.

Any further consequences on a diplomatic level would have to wait until the doctors had made their diagnosis, he said.

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