Russia medics deny outside pressure in Navalny treatment

Alexei Navalny fell gravely ill after what his allies believe was a poisoning. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MOSCOW (AFP) - Russian doctors who treated opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Siberia denied on Monday (Aug 24) there was any official interference in his treatment.

The 44-year-old critic of the Kremlin was rushed into intensive care on Thursday after he fell ill on a plane to Moscow and it landed in the Siberian city of Omsk.

Aides say they believe Mr Navalny was poisoned with a cup of tea, pointing the blame at President Vladimir Putin.

Doctors who treated him gave a press conference in Omsk on Monday morning, denying they were influenced by officials while treating him.

"There was no influence on the treatment of the patient a priori and there couldn't have been any," the chief doctor of the Omsk emergency hospital No 1, Dr Alexander Murakhovsky, said.

"We didn't agree any diagnoses with anyone. There was no pressure on us from any doctors or any other forces."

An air ambulance transferred Mr Navalny to a German clinic at the request of his relatives on Saturday, after they complained the Omsk hospital was ill-equipped and said they distrusted the doctors.

Journalists and Mr Navalny's allies said the hospital was packed with police and plain-clothed officers sat in Dr Murakhovsky's office.

"I can't tell you who they were," the chief doctor said. "I had a lot of people in my office, after all (Mr Navalny) is a political figure," he added.

"I can't say they did anything... They just came and asked what was going on."

Berlin's Charite hospital said on Sunday that Navalny was stable.

The Omsk regional health ministry said on Saturday that caffeine and alcohol were found in Mr Navalny's urine, but "no convulsive or synthetic poisons were detected".

"Yes of course we found substances," said the hospital deputy chief Anatoly Kalinichenko, while adding that Mr Navalny did not have alcohol poisoning.

Doctors repeated their insistence that no poison was detected by blood tests.

"There was nothing in the blood," said Dr Murakhovsky.

"If we had found poisoning, confirmed something, for us that would have been much easier," said Dr Kalinichenko.

The Omsk doctors said Mr Navalny appeared to have had a "metabolic disorder" and low blood sugar.

Doctors insisted they had acted appropriately.

"We saved his life, stabilised his state," said Dr Kalinichenko, adding that Mr Navalny had been in a "critical state".

"For the first day-and-a-half, we were fighting practically every moment for his life."

Join ST's Telegram channel here and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.