A couple of weeks ago, we learned that Russian dissident Alexei Navalny had been brought out of the medical coma he’d been placed in as he recovered from being poisoned at a Siberian airport. At that time he was showing improvements, but doctors warned that his prognosis was still far from clear and there could be lasting damage to his nervous system. But now, after more than a month in a German hospital, Navalny has been released. He’s walking under his own power, posting selfies on Instagram and looking for all the world as if he’s ready to get back to his usual role of being a thorn in Vladimir Putin’s side. (Associated Press)
The German hospital treating Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny for poisoning said Wednesday that his condition improved enough for him to be released, and suggested a “complete recovery” from the nerve agent was possible.
Navalny, 44, spent 32 days in treatment in Berlin’s Charite hospital, 24 of which were in intensive care, before doctors deemed his “condition had improved sufficiently for him to be discharged from acute inpatient care.”
The hospital said that based on Navalny’s progress, treating physicians believe that “complete recovery is possible,” but added that it ”remains too early to gauge the potential long-term effects of his severe poisoning.”
So a complete recovery is possible but still not a sure thing. That’s still a massive improvement over his condition when the German doctors weren’t entirely sure that he would ever emerge from the coma or be able to move on his own.
Three different medical labs have now finished their testing and concluded that Navalny was attacked with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok. It’s the same poison that was used against former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England a couple of years ago. Given the type of poison and the place where he was struck down, the list of suspects in this case is relatively short, to say the least.
This is all good news for Navalny, but it leaves us with the same nagging questions that have come up since the news of the poisoning first broke. Will the people who did this be held accountable, as multiple world leaders have demanded? The Russians are still insisting that no further investigation is required because their own doctors in Siberia found no indication of poisoning during the 48 hours that Alexei spent under their “care” before being transferred to Germany.
That’s a laughable claim at this point and the Russians have clearly been exposed in an attempt to cover up the attack. But that still doesn’t mean that progress will be made in the case. If Putin doesn’t want an investigation, there probably won’t be one. And I somehow doubt that additional sanctions on Russia will be forthcoming even if they continue trying to sweep all of this under the rug. That’s a different tactic than I’d been expecting. If it became obvious that Navalny had been poisoned in Siberia, I’d assumed that Putin would have his goon squad round up some other inconvenient and disposable person, “convict” them of the crime and execute them to keep everything quiet.
Instead, it appears that the Russian President may intend to just stand there like the toddler who is found with chocolate frosting all over his face, insisting to his parents that he has no idea what could have happened to the cake. It’s a pretty bold and obvious move on Putin’s part, but I also get the impression that Vlad is confident that he’s untouchable at this point and will live out the rest of his life as a fabulously wealthy dictator. (For bonus reading material, check out the estimates showing that Putin has soaked so much money out of the Russian economy for himself that he’s very likely already a trillionaire.)