Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny posted a photo of himself from his hospital room in Germany on Tuesday, and said he was able to breathe for an entire day without the aid of a ventilator.
Navalny reportedly told German officials he plans to return to Russia as soon as he has recovered from what several international diagnostic teams have now confirmed as Novichok poisoning.
Navalny appears in the hospital photo with his wife Yulia and two children. In the accompanying text, he joked about the joys of being able to breathe without mechanical assistance and said he is now able to rise from his bed for “short periods of time.”
“Just on my own, no extra help, I didn’t even use the simplest valve in my throat. I liked it very much. It’s a remarkable process that is underestimated by many. Strongly recommended,” he said of breathing.
“I miss you all,” Navalny told his supporters in Russia.
“He’s fully aware of his condition, he’s fully aware of what happened and he’s fully aware of where he is,” an unnamed German security official told the New York Times when asked about Navalny’s condition.
“He’s not planning to go into exile in Germany. He wants to go home to Russia and he wants to continue his mission,” the official added.
Navalny spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh on Tuesday confirmed comments from other German officials that Navalny plans to return to Russia as soon as he is able.
“All morning journalists write to me and ask if it is true that Alexei plans to return to Russia,” Yarmysh said on Twitter. “I understand the reason for the question, but nevertheless I find it strange that someone could think otherwise. Once again I confirm to everyone: no other options have ever been considered.”
Asked if Russian President Vladimir Putin would be willing to meet with Navalny after he recovers, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov brusquely replied, “We do not see the need for such a meeting, so I believe that such a meeting will not take place.” The BBC noted that Putin and his mouthpieces studiously avoid even referring to Navalny by name, to convey the impression that they regard him as insignificant.
Laboratories in France and Sweden have now confirmed the diagnosis of Novichok poisoning made by a German military lab. The Russian government continues to insist that its own doctors, the first to examine Navalny after he became seriously ill aboard a flight from Siberia to Moscow, found no evidence of poisoning.
The Russian government has responded angrily to accusations of involvement in Navalny’s poisoning and refused to launch an in-depth probe of the attack because Germany is supposedly dragging its feet on handing over evidence of the toxin found in Navalny’s system.
The German Foreign Ministry responded by crisply suggesting that doctors in Siberia took plenty of samples from Navalny when he was in their care, so they should not require any more materials from Germany.
“Three laboratories have now independently provided evidence of a substance from the Novichok group as the cause of Mr. Navalny’s poisoning. We renew the call for Russia to explain what has happened,” German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Tuesday.
The New York Times reported that Navalny told German prosecutors he will not cooperate with Russia’s request for a joint investigation with Germany.
The Germans do not sound enthusiastic about that request either; Seibert suggested international agencies should instead view the case as a possible Russian violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Monday advised the Russians should direct further inquiries on the case to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), noting that the chemical weapons watchdog agency has taken samples from Navalny. The Russians angrily responded that Maas was stonewalling and insulting Moscow by making such a suggestion.