Crime & Justice

Ex-director of Russian hospital where Navalny was treated goes missing

Moscow, May 9 (EFE).- Alexander Murakhovsky, the former director of the hospital in the city of Omsk, where Russian dissident leader Alexei Navalny was treated after being poisoned last August, disappeared on Friday, allegedly while on a hunting trip, the regional Interior Ministry announced.

Murakhovsky, who was promoted to head the Omsk regional health ministry last November, was one of the doctors at the Siberian region’s No. 1 Emergency Hospital who said that Navalny had not been poisoned.

Omsk is located in Siberia, about 2,200 km (1,370 miles) east of Moscow.

He said specifically that health authorities were considering several potential diagnoses for the dissident leader – who went into a coma after being poisoned with the Russian nerve agent Novichok on a plane flight – but ultimately he said that Navalny was suffering from pancreatitis and hypoglycemia.

At first, he impeded the transfer of the opposition leader to a Berlin hospital, although several days later Navalny was transferred to Germany, where over the next several months he made a grueling recovery from his life-threatening medical condition, which Western health authorities diagnosed as resulting from Novichok poisoning.

A specialized laboratory in Germany found clear indications that he had been poisoned with the nerve agent, and that conclusion was corroborated by labs in France and Sweden, as well as by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

The Omsk Interior Ministry said Sunday that, according to police, Murakhovsky last Friday left a hunting base camp in his all-terrain vehicle, heading into the surrounding forest and since then there has been no sign of him, according to the Interfax news agency.

During the search operation launched for the physician, searchers found the vehicle some 6.5 kilometers (4 miles) from the game preserve.

The search is continuing with the participation of police, the Russian National Guard, employees of the Emergency Situations Ministry, hunting inspectors, volunteers and local residents, and with the use of all-terrain vehicles, drones and helicopters.

The team of Navalny, who immediately upon his return from Berlin to Moscow in January was arrested on what the dissident leader has claimed is a trumped-up charge, asked rhetorically on Sunday whether the physician’s disappearance was coincidental.

Navalny is currently serving the prison term for violating parole conditions in the earlier court case by traveling to Germany to seek medical treatment after he was poisoned.

In April, the dissident leader – Russian President Vladimir Putin’s main political foe – ended a hunger strike that reportedly brought him close to death.

Sergei Maksimishin, one of the assistant directors of the Omsk medical center, died at age 55 of a heart attack in February, and in March the center’s head of orthopedic surgery, Rustam Agishev, died at age 62 of a stroke he had suffered in December 2020, according to the independent Meduza media outlet.

Another assistant director at the hospital, Anatoly Kalinichenko, resigned last October.

The Kremlin has denied any suggestion that Russian authorities were trying to kill Navalny, but other sources allegedly involved in the plot have said that the poison was spread on a pair of his underwear and was absorbed into his body, sending him into a coma.

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