Alexey Navalny: Russian opposition leader hospitalized in Omsk after suspected poisoning, spokeswoman says
Navalny, 44, started feeling unwell while on a return flight to Moscow from the Siberian city of Tomsk, his spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh, said on Twitter. The plane later made an urgent landing in Omsk, she added.
He only drank black tea in an airport cafe before takeoff, Yarmysh told Russian radio station Echo of Moscow.
“We assume that Alexey 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,” Yarmysh tweeted.
Loud groaning can be heard in video footage apparently filmed on the flight taken by Navalny, which was shared on the Baza Telegram channel. More video apparently filmed through the airplane window shows an immobile man being taken by wheeled stretcher to a waiting ambulance.
Navalny has been admitted to the acute poisoning unit of Omsk emergency hospital No. 1 and is in a “serious condition,” hospital head physician Alexander Murakhovsky said, according to Russian state news agency TASS.
The hospital’s deputy head physician, Anatoly Kalinichenko, speaking to local journalists, later confirmed that Navalny was still in the hospital in a serious condition. He was on a ventilator but was stable, the physician said.
Asked by a reporter if Navalny had been poisoned, Kalinichenko said: “Naturally, poisoning is considered as one of the possible reasons for the deterioration of his state. But apart from this, this could be a number of conditions that started acutely and led to the same clinical reactions. We are working on all of them: excluding, confirming.”
Kalinichenko said he believed doctors would have a diagnosis later Thursday. In the meantime, Navalny’s symptoms are being treated, he said.
In an earlier tweet, Yarmysh said the intensive care unit was full of police officers.
“They try to get an explanation from the doctor. The doctor saw me in the distance in the corridor, said that ‘some things are confidential’ and took the police to another room,” Yarmysh said.
“The evasive reaction of doctors only confirms that this is poisoning,” Yarmysh added.
Navalny’s attending physician, Anastasia Vasilyeva, said she had flown to Omsk after hearing the news of his hospitalization but had not been allowed to see Navalny or been given any information regarding his condition.
“We ask for help from the Ministry of Health and other officials to obtain documents [on Navalny’s condition], to determine the treatment and the need to transfer him to Moscow or abroad,” she posted on her Twitter account.
Yarmysh tweeted Thursday that Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya, had prevented Russian authorities from seizing her husband’s personal possessions.
“Yulia took Alexey’s things with her. She said that she did not allow them to be seized, and that they could only be taken as long as she’s arrested and there’s a subsequent personal search,” Yarmysh said.
Her tweet came shortly after another Navalny ally, Ivan Zhdanov, said investigators were taking Navalny’s personal belongings from Yulia, who had been visiting her husband in hospital.
Kremlin: ‘We wish him a speedy recovery’
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Kremlin was aware of media reports about Navalny’s hospitalization.
“We know that he is in a serious condition. Doctors are now doing what is necessary. In Omsk, the best doctors are involved in this case,” he said on a regular conference call with journalists.
“They hold consultations with specialists from Moscow. Of course, like for any citizen of our country, we wish him a speedy recovery.”
Peskov said the Kremlin would be ready to consider any request for assistance from Navalny’s team should they ask about taking him abroad for treatment.
Asked if the Kremlin knows whether Navalny was poisoned with a hallucinogen, Peskov said the results of tests were still awaited.
“So far, as far as we know, there are no analysis results, so [these] are only assumptions about whether it was poisoning or not. This must be confirmed by laboratory tests,” Peskov said.
Western leaders responded with concern to reports of the suspected poisoning on Thursday.
French President Emmanuel Macron said his country was ready to offer Navalny “all necessary assistance” including asylum.
“We are obviously ready to provide all the necessary assistance to Alexey Navalny and his family, in terms of health, asylum and protection,” Macron said Thursday evening in a joint appearance with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The French leader called for “full clarity” on the circumstances of Navalny’s hospitalization.
“We will be extremely vigilant about the follow-up and the investigations that will be carried out. Above all, I hope that he can be saved,” Macron added.
German NGO The Cinema for Peace Foundation said it was sending a medical plane to Russia on Thursday night, in an attempt to evacuate the activist. However it is unclear if Russian authorities would allow Navalny to be medically evacuated to Germany.
“This is not political action, but a humanitarian effort,” Jaka Bizilj, the NGO’s founder said, adding that if the team evacuated Navalny he would be taken to Berlin for treatment at the city’s Charite clinic.
The anti-corruption activist’s team earlier said that documents allowing them to transport Navalny had yet to be granted to them.
“If confirmed, those responsible must face consequences. Closely following the situation, wishing him strength and speedy recovery,” he said.
Health ‘sharply deteriorated’
More details are emerging of the events leading up to Navalny’s hospitalization.
Yarmysh told Russian media outlet Mediazona that Navalny had shown no signs of illness until after they had taken off from Tomsk.
“He said that he was not feeling well and asked me for a napkin, he had perspiration,” Yarmysh told Echo. “He asked me to talk to him because he wanted to concentrate on the sound of the voice. I talked to him, after which a trolley with water came up to us — I asked if water would help him; he said no. Then he went to the toilet, after which he lost consciousness.”
S7 Airlines told TASS that the opposition leader “did not eat or drink anything” during the flight.
“Soon after the takeoff of flight S7 2614 Tomsk-Moscow, the state of health of one of the passengers, Alexey Navalny, sharply deteriorated,” the company said.
According to S7, the crew “worked quickly and strictly in accordance with the procedures.” The flight attendants immediately reported the incident to the aircraft commander who landed the airliner at the nearest airport.
After refueling, the plane went on to Moscow but two passengers who were flying with Navalny stayed in Omsk, TASS said.
Lawyers representing Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Fund (FBK) will submit an application to Russia’s Investigation Committee demanding that it open a criminal investigation into his alleged poisoning, FBK lawyer Vyacheslav Gimadi wrote on Twitter.
“There is no doubt that Navalny was poisoned for his political position and activities,” Gimadi said.
Doctors did not find any signs of poisoning after doing analysis on the opposition leader, TASS reported last year.
In an interview with CNN’s Matthew Chance in 2018, Navalny said speaking out in Russia entailed a serious risk.
“Anyone who is engaged in opposition activities in Russia can be arrested or killed,” he said. “This thought gives me no pleasure or joy, I assure you, but it is a simple choice: you can be silent or you can speak. Taking into account all the risks, I continue my work.”
Other Kremlin critics or opponents have been involved in apparent poisoning incidents or suffered mysterious deaths.
Writing in The Guardian, she described how 10 minutes after drinking the tea, “I realise that I have to call the air stewardess as I am rapidly losing consciousness.” Politkovskaya says she was taken to a hospital, where she writes that a nurse told her: “My dear, they tried to poison you.”
This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Navalny’s spokesperson.
CNN’s Zahra Ullah and Anna Chernova reported from Moscow. Mary Ilyushina and Darya Tarasova contributed to this report.
Delhi sees deadliest month amid raging pandemic
India has the second highest number of Covid cases in the world. November was the deadliest month for the capital Delhi, which has been struggling to contain the virus, with more than 100 deaths on some days.
The death toll has overwhelmed the Indian capital’s crematoriums, where many families say goodbye to their loved ones in ancient rituals.
A lack of social distancing at the city’s markets has been blamed for the recent uptick. Some hospitals have run out of ICU beds – with pollution and cold weather adding to the burden.
Cases are starting to fall, but doctors warn that if people don’t take care, the situation could get worse again, as the BBC’s South Asia correspondent Rajini Vaidyanathan reports.
Produced by Kunal Sehgal, Shalu Yadav and Greg Brosnan.
Filmed and edited by Varun Nayar.
India farmers protests: Thousands swarm Delhi against deregulation rules
Farmers from the nearby states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh began arriving by tractors and on foot at the outskirts of New Delhi last week, where they blocked roads and set up makeshift camps, according to protest leaders. Some slept on the road or in their tractors, and several places of worship offered protesters food.
Police attempted to block demonstrators from entering the city. They fired tear gas and water cannons Thursday and Friday after protesters pelted police officers with stones and damaged public property, according to Manoj Yadav, a senior police official from Haryana.
The farmers are protesting laws passed in September, which Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi says will give farmers more autonomy to set their own prices and sell directly to private businesses, such as supermarket chains.
According to Ashutosh Mishra, the media coordinator of protest organizer All India Kisan Sangharsh Committee, which represents around 200 farming unions, tens of thousands of demonstrators have gathered at each of New Delhi’s three borders — a line of protesters at one of the borders stretches for 30 kilometers (19 miles), he said.
Police have put up barriers and dug up roads to prevent protesters from coming into the city center to hold sit-ins. Mishra expects more farmers from around the country to join the protests in the coming days.
That’s despite New Delhi being a hotspot for Covid-19 in a country that has already reported more than 9.4 million reported cases, the most in any country bar the United States.
“We are trying to be weary of Covid but we don’t have an option — it is a question of life and death,” said Mukut Singh, the president of a farmers union in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, who is leading thousands in protest in his home state, and says he will join the protesters in Delhi later this week.
“We are the ones who have provided food, milk, vegetables when the whole country was in lockdown — we were still toiling in the fields,” he said. “It is the government who has put us at risk by introducing these laws during Covid.”
What the protests are about
For decades, the Indian government has offered guaranteed prices to farmers for certain crops, providing long-term certainty that allows them to make investments for the next crop cycle.
Under the previous laws, farmers had to sell their goods at auction at their state’s Agricultural Produce Market Committee, where they were guaranteed to get at least the government-agreed minimum price. There were restrictions on who could purchase at auction and prices were capped for essential commodities.
Modi’s new laws dismantle the committee structure, allowing farmers to sell their goods to anyone for any price. Farmers have more freedom to do things such as sell direct to buyers and sell to other states.
Modi said increasing market competition would be a good thing as it fulfills farmers’ demands for higher income and gives them new rights and opportunities.
“The farmers should get the advantage of a big and comprehensive market which opens our country to global markets,” Modi said on Monday, as farmers protested in the capital. He hopes it will attract private investment into the agricultural industry, which has lagged as other parts of the country’s economy have modernized.
But farmers argue that the rules could help big companies drive down prices. While farmers could sell crops at elevated prices if the demand is there, conversely, they could struggle to meet the minimum price in years when there is too much supply in the market.
Singh, the Uttar Pradesh farmer, said that removing the price guarantees will make life tougher for farmers.
“There is a lot of anger among farmers,” he said. “We don’t get even the minimum support price that is presently declared — removing these protections and making it easier for corporates to enter will completely buy us out.”
Why it’s such a hot political issues
That’s made farming a central political issue, with farmers arguing for years to get the minimum guaranteed prices increased.
Modi and his government continue to insist that they are supporting farmers.
“The Indian government under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi has always stood in full commitment to resolving the problems faced by farmers and will continue to stand by them,” said Narendra Singh Tomar, the Minister of Agriculture and Farmer Welfare.
Tomar urged farmers to abandon their protests and instead discuss their issues with the government — although so far, Modi has shown no sign of capitulating to protesters’ demands.
House steering panel backs DeLauro for Appropriations chair
While the full caucus typically backs the Steering Committee’s pick, an upset has occurred as recently as 2014.
Lawmakers and aides watching the race expect it will be decided on a second round of voting for DeLauro and Wasserman Schultz, with allies of the Florida Democrat hopeful she can eke out a win with the help of Kaptur supporters forced to throw their support behind another candidate. The Ohio Democrat is not expected to secure enough support on the first ballot.
Kaptur, 74, the most senior Democrat on the spending panel and the longest-serving woman in Congress, has won support from many members of the Congressional Black Caucus — a powerful bloc that typically respects seniority in leadership elections. Supporters of Wasserman Schultz say she could win if she can secure even some of those votes.
DeLauro’s supporters, however, are confident that the close ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and long-time champion of the public health and education communities will be confirmed as chair.
Pelosi typically doesn’t get involved in steering races after she publicly backed Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) in 2014, who won the steering panel’s nod to become the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee in 2014, only to lose the spot in a stunning caucus-wide vote. The caucus instead chose Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), who went on to become Energy and Commerce chair.
DeLauro — the second-most senior contender for the gavel who controls the largest chunk of nondefense spending as the head of the Labor-HHS-Education subcommittee — has long been expected to lead the appropriations panel and has a reputation for working with senior Republican appropriators like Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.).
DeLauro, 77, is a “work horse” and a “force of nature,” said Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.), who’s pushing her colleagues to vote for the Connecticut Democrat, in an interview last month. “Her appeal is that she has integrity, that she has wisdom, that she’s such a hard worker and a strong fighter for the issues that she cares about.“
Wasserman Schultz, who chairs the Military Construction-VA spending panel, has been expected to pick up support from freshmen, moderates and some members of the CBC. Supporters point to her robust fundraising for Democrats — particularly for vulnerable members that will be crucial to keeping the House majority in 2022.
Some Democrats said a disappointing Election Day that cost the party more than a half-dozen House seats underscores the need for change, including a more moderate candidate that could bring generational diversity to the leadership ranks.
“I think that in the aftermath of the election, it makes clear that the old ways of doing things just aren’t going to work anymore,” Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), a co-chair of the moderate Blue Dog Democrats who supports Wasserman Schultz, said last month.
The three Democrats are vying to succeed retiring Chair Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), the first woman ever to lead the spending panel. All three have vowed to make the appropriations process more transparent and accessible to members, while supporting the return of earmarked spending to help Democrats secure cash for pet projects at home.
Heather Caygle contributed to this report.
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