The German hospital treating Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny says he has been taken out of an induced coma and is responsive.
German experts say Navalny, who fell ill Aug. 20 on a domestic flight in Russia, was poisoned with a substance belonging to the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok.
Berlin’s Charité hospital said Monday that Navalny’s condition has further improved, allowing doctors to end the medically induced coma and gradually ease him off mechanical ventilation.
It noted that he was responding to speech but “long-term consequences of the serious poisoning can still not be ruled out.”
WATCH | Russian opposition leader poisoned by Novichok, Germany says:
Navalny, a fierce, high-profile critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was flown to Germany on Aug. 22.
German chemical weapons experts said tests showed that the 44-year-old Navalny was poisoned with Novichok, prompting the German government last week to demand that Russia investigate the case.
Russia has denied that the Kremlin was involved in poisoning Navalny and accused Germany of failing to provide evidence about the poisoning that it requested in late August.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office indicated Monday that she might be willing to rethink the fate of a controversial German-Russian gas pipeline project — a clear sign of Berlin’s growing frustration over Moscow’s stonewalling about the poisoning.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Sunday that the Russian reaction could determine whether Germany changes its long-standing backing for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which brings Russian gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea, bypassing Ukraine.
“The chancellor also believes that it’s wrong to rule anything out,” Merkel spokesperson Steffen Seibert told reporters after being asked about Maas’s comments.
Berlin demands answers
Germany announced last Wednesday that samples taken from Navalny showed clear evidence he was poisoned with substances from the Novichok group. Seibert cautioned that it was premature to expect Moscow to respond to the matter within a few days, but made it clear that Berlin wants answers soon.
“I can’t express a clear, time-limited expectation, except that we are certainly not talking about months or the end of the year,” he said.
German diplomats rejected the Russian suggestion that Berlin was to blame for any delay in investigating the case, noting that Navalny was first treated for suspected poisoning in the Siberian city of Omsk on Aug. 20.
“All evidence, witnesses, traces and so forth are in the place where the crime was committed, presumably somewhere in Siberia,” said German Foreign Ministry spokesperson Christofer Burger.