Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny 'able to breathe' unaided as he posts picture from hospital bed

Theo Merz
·3-min read

Watch: Navalny posts first public comment since waking from coma in Berlin

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny said he was breathing normally and missing his supporters on Tuesday, in his first communication with the outside world since his poisoning almost a month ago.

The 44 year old posted a picture to Instagram from the Berlin hospital where he is being treated, surrounded by his wife and two children.

“Hello, this is Navalny,” he wrote in a caption. “I miss you.”

In the lighthearted message, he added: “I can’t really do much but yesterday I was able to breathe on my own all day. Absolutely on my own. I didn’t have any outside help, not even the simplest valve in my throat.

Watch: Who is Alexei Navalny?

“I enjoyed it very much. It’s an amazing process that it is undervalued by many people. I recommend it.”

Mr Navalny, Russia’s most outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin, had been on a ventilator and in a medically induced coma for weeks after falling suddenly ill on a flight from Siberia to Moscow.

In the social media image he looked thinner than usual but was sitting up in bed in a hospital gown.

The previous day, doctors said his condition was improving and reported he was able to leave his bed for short periods, but did not rule out the possibility of long-term damage to his health.

Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny
Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny

Mr Navalny’s first public statement comes after several European laboratories independently confirmed the top Kremlin critic had been poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok. The substance was used in the attack on former Russian intelligence agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury.

Doctors at the Charite Hospital in Berlin had earlier diagnosed Novichok poisoning, but Moscow accused them of “rushing to conclusions”.

Western leaders have threatened sanctions against Russia and demanded explanations from the Kremlin, which has repeatedly denied involvement in any attack.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov cancelled a planned visit to Berlin on Tuesday, which the ministry said was due to German scheduling issues.

But in separate comments to Russian media, Mr Lavrov said Western governments had “gone beyond all reason and are forcing Russia to confess to the poisoning of Navalny”.

Watch: What is Novichok and how has it been used?

“If it hadn’t been Navalny, they would have thought up some other excuse for implementing additional sanctions,” he said.

Mr Navalny’s supporters have laid the blame for the poisoning squarely on Russian authorities, pointing to similar attacks on opposition figures over the 20-year rule of Mr Putin.