On the morning of Aug. 20, prominent Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny and two of his aides stopped at a cafe in Russia’s Tomsk Airport before their flight to Moscow. Navalny got tea — the only thing his spokeswoman saw him eat or drink that day.
When Navalny started loudly wailing in pain during the flight, the spokeswoman suspected the tea was deliberately laced with poison — a method used in other recent attacks on Kremlin critics linked to Russian agents by Western intelligence officials.
Navalny lost consciousness by the time the plane made an emergency landing in the Siberian city of Omsk. An ambulance was waiting on the tarmac to take him to the hospital. He’s been in a coma ever since, and German doctors now treating Navalny in Berlin said clinical results indicate he was indeed poisoned, likely by a yet-to-be identified nerve agent. Berlin’s Charité hospital said Friday that Navalny remains in serious condition and is on a ventilator, but there “is no acute danger to his life.” The symptoms of the poisoning are in decline, Charité said. Doctors have cautioned, however, that it’s unclear what the long-term effects will be to Navalny’s nervous system.
The Washington Post analyzed videos and photos — a mix of open-source material, social media posts and flight paths — to retrace his steps in the days leading up to his suspected poisoning. Navalny had been in Novosibirsk and then Tomsk to meet with activists and opposition candidates for regional elections next month.
Russian media reported that he was under constant surveillance by federal security agents during the trip, though the Kremlin has denied that President Vladimir Putin was involved in Navalny’s poisoning. Russia has yet to open a criminal investigation into the incident, despite Western governments’ calls to do so.
Natasha Abbakumova contributed to this report