Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny is in a coma and on a ventilator in a hospital in Siberia after falling ill from suspected poisoning during a flight, according to his spokeswoman.
Kira Yarmysh said on Thursday that Navalny, 44, was flying from Siberia to Moscow after a work trip to Tomsk when his plane made an emergency landing after he fell ill.
He is in the intensive care unit for toxicology patients in Emergency Hospital No 1 in the Siberian city of Omsk, according to the TASS state news agency.
Doctors gave contradictory information about his condition, saying it had stabilised but also that there was still a threat to his life and they were working to save him.
“We think that Alexei was poisoned with something mixed in his tea. That was the only thing he drank in the morning,” Yarmysh wrote on Twitter. “Doctors say the poison was quickly absorbed through the hot liquid.”
Navalny had drunk a cup of tea at a Tomsk airport cafe before boarding his flight, Yarmysh said. The Interfax news agency quoted the cafe’s owners as saying they were checking CCTV cameras to try to establish what had happened.
Yarmysh told the Echo Moskvy radio station that Navalny was sweating on the plane and asked her to talk to him so that he could “focus on the sound of a voice”. He then went to the toilet and lost consciousness.
“Alexei is still unconscious. He was put under ventilator. Police were called to the hospital on our demand,” said Yarmysh.
Passenger Pavel Lebedev posted on social media an account of what he saw.
“At the start of the flight he went to the toilet and didn’t come back. He started feeling really sick. They struggled to bring him round and he was screaming in pain.”
Tatyana Shakirova, a spokeswoman for the regional health ministry in Omsk, said: “The poisoning version is one of several versions being considered. It’s not possible now to say what the reason was.”
Yarmysh said she believed the suspected poisoning was connected to this year’s regional election campaign.