Alexei Navalny visited by Angela Merkel in Berlin hospital – The Guardian

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The Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny has confirmed German media reports that Angela Merkel visited him in hospital where he was treated after being poisoned with the nerve agent novichok.

Navalny, who was released from the Charité hospital in Berlin last week after 32 days of treatment, said he was grateful to the German chancellor for her visit.

He said that, contrary to a report by the magazine Der Spiegel, her visit had not been secret.

“There was a meeting, but you shouldn’t call it ‘secret’, he wrote on Twitter, “rather it was a private meeting and conversation with the family.”

Navalny added he was “very grateful to Chancellor Merkel for visiting me at the hospital”.

The personal visit by Merkel, details of which have not been made public by her office, is highly unusual and as a gesture of solidarity sends a strong signal to the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, that the German government will seek to clarify who was behind the attack and consider what measures to take, amid widespread belief that the use of novichok indicated the Russian state was responsible.

The halting of a gas pipeline project between Russia and Germany has not been ruled out.

Merkel’s intervention also underlined her personal interest in the highly sensitive incident, which has served to heighten the already existing tensions between Berlin and Moscow.

According to Der Spiegel, Merkel visited Navalny at his bedside after he had emerged from a coma. There is no confirmation as to precisely when it happened.

Der Spiegel said the visit would “let the Russian government know that Berlin will not give this case up and will find out the true details of what happened”.

So far Moscow has stringently denied any involvement in the incident, which Merkel has described as “an attempt to silence” Navalny. She supported attempts to bring him to Germany for treatment.

Navalny was taken ill on a flight from Siberia to Moscow last month, in what his supporters insist was a state-sanctioned murder attempt. His life, say doctors, was only saved as a result of an emergency landing in the city of Omsk, from where he was later flown to Germany after tense negotiations with the Russian authorities and medical doctors.

Laboratories in Germany, France and Sweden have all confirmed through blood and urine tests that Navalny had been poisoned.

Reports in the Russian media, backed up in part by Putin, have come up with increasingly obscure scenarios as to who was responsible for the attack, including theories that he poisoned himself and that the incident occurred only after he had arrived in Berlin.

Navalny is understood to be recuperating in a Berlin flat with his wife. He is expected to stay for several more weeks before returning to Russia, where he says he intends to continue his political campaigning.

In the meantime he continues to undergo medical treatment at the Charité as an outpatient. Doctors there say that, while he has made a good recovery, they do not know whether he will suffer any long-term effects.

It is understood that Merkel had reportedly been receiving daily updates on his medical condition when he was in a critical state.

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