The activist who helped bring Aleksei Navalny to Germany for treatment after he was poisoned has predicted the Kremlin critic will need a month to regain full fitness.
Navalny made his first public appearance on September 23 after being discharged from a Berlin hospital where Germany said he was being treated for poisoning with a potentially deadly Soviet-developed nerve agent.
“He is still not 100 percent from what he was before [falling ill],” Jaka Bizilj, founder of the Cinema for Peace Foundation, told foreign journalists in Berlin on September 24.
“When we got the first reports, we got the impression he had made a fast recovery and was fit, but we have to be careful,” he said. “I think he will need at least a month to be fit again.”
Navalny was flown from Russia to Berlin last month after falling ill on a domestic flight in Siberia. The West has demanded an explanation from the Kremlin, which has denied any involvement in the incident and says it has yet to see evidence of a crime.
Bizilj, who had previously helped anti-Kremlin activist Pyotr Verzilov get treatment in Germany after a suspected poisoning, said he had no doubt Navalny would return to Russia.
“His chief of staff has made clear there is no doubt he wants to go back to Russia,” he said, adding that he had not seen Navalny in person but was in contact with his aides and family.
The 44-year-old anti-corruption campaigner posted on social media a picture of himself sitting on a park bench in the German capital on September 23 after being released, adding that while he still didn’t have full use of his left hand, he had started learning how to regain his balance by standing on one leg.
Navalny fell violently ill aboard a Moscow-bound flight on August 20 originating in the Siberian city of Tomsk, where he was carrying out his latest investigation into official corruption. Days later he was airlifted to Berlin for treatment.
“The first time they put me in front of a mirror after 24 days in intensive care (of which 16 were in a coma), a character from the movie ‘The Lord of the Rings’ looked back at me and I can tell you, it was not an elf at all,” Navalny said in the post.
“I was terribly upset: I thought that I would never be discharged. But the doctors continued to do their miracle,” he added.
Navalny said he will continue to do physiotherapy, while doctors from the Charite hospital in Berlin said in a statement on September 23 that based on his “progress and current condition,” physicians believe that a “complete recovery is possible.”
“However, it remains too early to gauge the potential long-term effects of his severe poisoning,” the statement cautioned.
German authorities have said tests in Germany, France, and Sweden have determined Navalny was poisoned with a chemical agent from the Novichok group of bioweapons.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov repeated its demand to see evidence collected by the Germans.
“We aren’t inclined to reject anything, we only want to be certain and understand what’s going on, so as to compare. In order to compare, be convinced, and understand, we need to have information, which we, unfortunately, are currently being denied,” Peskov said on September 23.
Russia’s permanent representative to the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Aleksandr Shulgin, said on September 23 that Moscow had sent a note to Germany’s mission to the OPCW demanding information on the Navalny case.
With reporting by Reuters and Interfax