Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who fell into a coma after a suspected poisoning, was flown to Germany for treatment Saturday following a day-long standoff over whether he would be allowed to leave a Russian hospital.
Navalny has promoted opposition candidates to Russian President Vladimir Putin since he was kept from running against the longtime leader in 2018’s presidential election.
He fell ill Thursday while on a flight and was taken to a Siberian hospital following an emergency landing. His allies suspect tea he was drinking was poisoned by someone linked to Putin.
Navalny was first OK’d to be transferred to a Berlin hospital Friday, but when the German plane equipped with medical supplies arrived, his Russian doctors said he was too fragile to travel, leading supporters to believe his transfer was delayed for political reasons — until any poison would be untraceable in his system.
The Omsk medical team finally relented after a charity that had organized the medevac plane revealed that the German doctors examined the politician and said he was fit to be transported.
Navalny’s spokesperson confirmed his departure to Germany on Twitter on Saturday. He left just after 8 a.m. local time.
“Alexei’s plane has taken off for Berlin,” Kira Yarmysh tweeted, according to BBC News. “Massive thanks to everyone for their support. The struggle for Alexei’s life and health is just beginning.”
Deputy chief doctor of the Omsk hospital Anatoly Kalinichenko then told reporters that Navalny’s condition had stabilized and that physicians “didn’t mind” transferring the politician, given that his relatives were willing “to take on the risks.”
Alexander Murakhovksy, head doctor of a hospital in Omsk, said Navalny had been diagnosed with a metabolic disease that may have been caused by low blood sugar, and did not believe that Navalny had been poisoned, Reuters reported.
The Kremlin has denied involvement in the incident but it wouldn’t be the first time Putin has been accused of poisoning or murdering someone he sees as a threat.
A Kremlin spokesperson said the delay was a medical decision but the decision to allow him to fly to Berlin came as international pressure grew.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.