Gravely ill Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny has been flown to Germany for medical care, after a wrangle with authorities in Siberia.
There is no word yet from the Charite hospital on his condition but the founder of the activist group that arranged the flight called Navalny’s health condition “very worrying”.
Mr Navalny, a trenchant critic of the Kremlin and Russian president Vladimir Putin, has been in a coma in hospital in the Siberian city of Omsk.
He collapsed on a plane to Moscow on Thursday (local time) after drinking what his allies believe was poisoned tea.
German doctors flew in to evacuate Mr Navalny, 44, at the request of his wife and supporters who said they feared authorities might try to cover up clues as to how he fell ill and that the hospital treating him was badly equipped.
Medical staff at the Omsk hospital initially said on Friday that while Mr Navalny’s condition had improved slightly overnight he was in too unstable a state to be safely transported out of the country.
But late on Friday they said they would not object to him being moved after the German doctors were granted access to Mr Navalny and said they thought he was fit to travel.
Mr Navalny’s wife Yulia had earlier sent a letter to the Kremlin directly appealing for it to intervene and grant permission for him to be allowed to be flown out.
“It’s a shame it took so long for the doctors to make this decision. The plane has been waiting since morning, the documents were also ready then,” Kira Yarmysh, Navalny’s spokeswoman, said on Friday evening.
“Alexei’s plane has taken off for Berlin,” Mr Yarmysh tweeted on Saturday morning.
“Massive thanks to everyone for their support. The struggle for Alexei’s life and health is just beginning.”
Alexander Murakhovsky, the head doctor at the hospital, said earlier that Navalny had been diagnosed with a metabolic disease that may have been caused by low blood-sugar level.
He said traces of industrial chemical substances had been found on Navalny’s clothes and fingers and that doctors did not believe he had been poisoned.
Mr Navalny has been a thorn in the Kremlin’s side for more than a decade, exposing what he says is high-level graft and mobilising crowds of young protesters.
He has been repeatedly detained for organising public meetings and rallies and sued over his investigations into corruption. He was barred from running in a presidential election in 2018.