The head doctor at the Siberian hospital treating Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said on Friday he had been diagnosed with a metabolic disease caused by low blood sugar.
Alexander Murakhovsky, the head doctor at the hospital treating Navalny in the city of Omsk, also said traces of industrial chemical substances had been found on the 44-year-old’s clothes and fingers.
“Today we have some working diagnoses. The main one is … a metabolic disorder,” Murakhovsky said, adding that Navalny’s condition “may be caused by a sudden drop of blood sugar levels”.
The announcement came shortly after allies of Navalny accused the Kremlin of thwarting his medical evacuation to Germany, saying the decision places his life in mortal danger because the Siberian hospital treating him is under-equipped.
Navalny, a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin and his lieutenants, is in a serious condition after drinking tea on a plane on Thursday that his allies believe was laced with poison. A doctor on Friday said his condition had improved a little overnight.
Navalny’s wife Yulia Navalnaya and his spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh spoke out against the Kremlin after Murakhovsky said moving him would put his life at risk because he was still in a coma and his condition unstable.
“The ban on transporting Navalny is an attempt on his life being carried out right now by doctors and the deceitful authorities that have authorised it,” Yarmysh wrote on social media.
She said doctors had previously consented to his being moved, but had withheld their agreement at the last minute.
“This decision, of course, was not made by them but by the Kremlin,” said Yarmysh.
Later on Friday, Navalnaya made a direct appeal to Putin to permit her husband’s medical evacuation to Germany.
She posted a letter on Navalny’s Twitter account she had signed addressed to Putin, saying: “I officially apply to you with a demand for permission to take Alexei Navalny to Germany.”
The dispute over moving Navalny broke out as a German air ambulance landed in Omsk, the city where he is being treated, with the intention of flying him to Germany for treatment if possible.
Murakhovsky told reporters many legal questions would need to be resolved before Navalny could be handed over to European doctors.
He said top doctors had been flown in from Moscow to treat Navalny. The Moscow doctors were no worse than their European counterparts, he said.
Later on Friday, the Kremlin said not evacuating Navalny was “purely a medical decision”.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the German doctors who arrived on Friday had been invited to join Russian doctors treating Navalny.
The German team
Leonid Volkov, Navalny’s chief of staff, later told reporters at a news conference in Berlin: “The German doctors who came on this flight … finally got access to him just several minutes ago.”
But the aide said that Navalny’s family still had “no diagnosis, no analysis” and no access to reliable data about his condition, accusing the Russian authorities of trying to conduct a “cover-up operation”.
Describing the situation at Omsk hospital, he said: “The medical staff, the people in white robes, were literally substituted by people in grey suits in their offices.
“Our demand stays the same: we have to bring him to some place, to Berlin to Charite, where independent analysis can be done of what is happening to him,” Volkov said.
The Cinema for Peace Foundation, the German activist organisation that sent the plane for Navalny, said on Friday the German doctors said he was in a fit state to be airlifted.
“We heard back from the German medical team that they are able and willing to fly Mr Navalny to Berlin, and that this is also the wish of his family,” the foundation said in a statement.
“The Russian authorities state that they consulted with the German doctors and that it is not safe for him to travel. This is incorrect,” the statement said.