Alexei Navalny, Vladimir Putin’s arch-rival and critics, has been rushed to hospital after apparently being poisoned.
The lawyer and anti-corruption campaigner fell ill on a flight from Tomsk to Moscow, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing in the Siberian city of Omsk.
Video shows the unconscious Navalny being stretchered from the aircraft into a waiting ambulance before being rushed to intensive care.
He is now in a coma and hooked up to a ventilator, with doctors saying his condition is ‘grave’, press secretary Kira Yarmysh revealed.
Alexei Navalny, arch political rival and critic of Valdimir Putin has been rushed to hospital after apparently being poisoned (pictured, Navalny is taken into an ambulance)
Kira Yarmysh, Navalny’s press secretary, says she suspects poison was added to a cup of tea that he was pictured drinking at the airport
Yarmysh said she suspects poison was added to tea he was pictured drinking at the airport, in an image widely circulated on social media.
The manager of the Vienna Cafe at Tomsk airport where the image was taken said the staff member who served Navalny the drink now cannot be found.
The cafe has been closed and an investigation was underway, the manager said.
Medics have given a preliminary diagnosis of ‘toxic poisoning’, but no test results have yet come back.
Yarmysh posted from his ambulance: ‘We assume that Alexei was poisoned with something mixed into the tea. It was the only thing that he drank in the morning.
‘Doctors say the toxin was absorbed faster through the hot liquid. Alexey is now unconscious.’
She added: ‘This morning Navalny was returning to Moscow from Tomsk. On the flight he started feeling ill.
‘The plane made an emergency landing in Omsk.’
Navalny (file image) was on a flight from Tomsk to Moscow when he suddenly fell ill, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing in Omsk
Navalny was unconscious when he was taken from the plane, and had to be put on a ventilator. He is now in a coma, and doctors say his condition is ‘grave’
Navalny is seen as Putin’s most charismatic and potentially dangerous foe.
He has faced constant legal attacks and has served a number of jail sentences.
His anti-corruption organisation was dubbed a ‘foreign agent’ by the Russian authorities.
Police have conducted repeated raids on his offices.
Belarus doctor Alexander Lukashenko has blamed Navalny for fermenting the protests in his country, but without providing proof.
In one recent expose, Navalny claimed Putin’s ecology chief Svetlana Radionova was linked to a luxury property deal and that her wealth could not be explained.
Navalny has vowed his aim is to topple Putin and replace him as president.
Navalny has pledged to topple Vladimir Putin – who recently passed a law allowing him to rule for another eight years – from power and take his place
His press secretary explained that after the plane took off from Tomsk, Navalny, 44, ‘said that he was feeling unwell and asked me for a napkin, he was sweating.
‘He asked me to speak to him because he needed to concentrate on the sound of the voice. I was talking to him, then they brought a trolley with water.
‘I asked if water would help, he said no. Then he went to the toilet, and after that he fainted.’
It was later reported that Navalny in intensive care had regained consciousness but was ‘struggling to speak’.
Alexander Murakhovsky, the chief doctor treating Navalny, assessed his condition as ‘grave’.
Separately, TVK citing the health ministry in Omsk reported that he remained unconscious.
This contradicted an earlier report that he had come round. Navalny coordinator in Tomsk, Kseniya Fadeeva, told Open Media: ‘He was completely fine before he drank tea at Tomsk airport.’