Several other opponents of Russia’s regime have also been poisoned.
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The theories on what caused Alexei Navalny to collapse in agonising pain mid-flight to Moscow are various and colourful.
He’s been poisoned, he’s suffering a reaction from hallucinogenic drugs, he drank too much the night before leaving Siberia, he’s suffering the side-effects of antidepressants, he’s collapsed after a botched operation in the West.
Some of these have been propagated in state media, classic examples of misinformation, confusion and distortion: pump out lots of theories and no one knows which or what to believe.
His supporters, on the other hand, remain convinced something was slipped into his tea before take-off, but the doctors treating him say no signs of poison have been found, rather they have diagnosed it as a metabolic condition caused by low blood sugar.
And why prevent Alexei Navalny from receiving treatment in Germany?
A medevac aircraft is waiting on the tarmac at Omsk airport and his family have requested he is discharged to travel, but the doctors blocked it at the last minute.
Mr Navalny’s wife believes they are stalling for time to allow the poison to leave his body – this could well be true and if you buy into the poisoning theory it has undeniable logic, but we must also remember that it is not unheard of for doctors in the UK to stop a patient going elsewhere for treatment when they believe it is against the individual’s best interest or because the patient is too ill to be moved.
But medical aircraft these days are highly sophisticated and can safely care for patients in a very poor state – maybe the Kremlin, having originally suggested he could be moved abroad, was taken by surprise at the speed in which this aircraft was dispatched?
We should be equally cautious of the allegations from Mr Navalny’s team that a police officer has told them the poison is so toxic that hospital staff should be wearing hazmat suits – that officer is so far unnamed, unknown and unheard.
Whatever the Kremlin might say, Alexei Navalny is President Vladimir Putin‘s strongest and most effective critic and whether it was the cause in this incident, poisoning is a tactic previously used by the Russian state to eliminate opponents.
However much the Kremlin might protest, this fits a pattern of behaviour – that so many opponents of Mr Putin’s regime keep having “accidents” is rather fanciful.
Beyond that though, there is little we can be sure of by way of fact at this stage except that whatever is happening and whoever is telling the truth, we should be carefully scrutinising what we are told by both sides.
Such is their visceral hatred for each other, agendas are at play.
But yet again another outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin lies in a hospital bed fighting for his life. Just another coincidence?