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Navalny posts photo of himself online, says he can breathe

BERLIN — Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny posted a picture of himself from his hospital bed in Germany on Tuesday, looking gaunt but alert and saying that he was happy to be breathing on his own finally after being poisoned with a nerve agent.

The Instagram post was the first image of the 44-year-old released since he was taken to Berlin’s Charite hospital two days after falling ill on a domestic flight in Russia on Aug. 20.

“Hi, this is Navalny,” he wrote in the Russian-language post. “I have been missing you. I still can’t do much, but yesterday I managed to breathe on my own for the entire day.”

Navalny had been kept in an induced coma for more than a week as he was treated with an antidote before hospital officials said a week ago that his condition had improved enough for him to be brought out of it.

On Monday, the hospital said he had been removed from mechanical ventilation and was able to leave his bed for “short periods of time.”

In the photo, Navalny is being given a hug by his wife Yulia and is flanked by his two children as he sits upright in his bed in a hospital gown, and his statement even had the ring of his well-known sarcastic humour.

“Just on my own, no extra help, I didn’t even use the simplest valve in my throat,” he said of being able to breathe without ventilation. “I liked it very much. It’s a remarkable process that is underestimated by many. Strongly recommended.”

Despite his recovery, doctors have said they cannot rule out long-term health issues associated with the poisoning.

Navalny’s spokesman, Leonid Volkov, refused to give any details on Navalny’s condition or possible plans after his recovery when reached by The Associated Press on Tuesday.

A German military lab has determined that Navalny was poisoned with Novichok, the same class of Soviet-era agent that Britain said was used on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, England, in 2018. On Monday, the German government said independent tests by labs in France and Sweden backed up its findings.

The Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons also is taking steps to have samples from Navalny tested at its designated labs, Germany has said.

The Kremlin has bristled at calls from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other leaders to answer questions about the poisoning, denying any official involvement.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has accused the West of using the incident as a pretext to introduce new sanctions against Moscow.

French President Emmanuel Macron’s office said he had expressed “deep concern over the criminal act” that targeted Navalny directly with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday.

The Kremlin said Putin in the call “underlined the impropriety of unfounded accusations against the Russian side” and emphasized Russia’s demand for Germany to hand over analyses and samples. Putin also called for joint work by German and Russian doctors.

Berlin has rejected suggestions from Moscow that it is dragging its heels on sharing evidence.

With Germany’s findings corroborated by labs abroad, “we do not expect the bringer of the bad news — namely us — to be attacked further, but rather that they should deal with the news itself,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Monday of Russian authorities.

Asked why no samples from Navalny have been given to Russia, his spokeswoman noted that “Mr. Navalny was in Russian treatment in a hospital for 48 hours.”

Russian doctors who treated Navalny in Omsk said no evidence of poisoning could be found.

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Isachenkov reported from Moscow.

Vladimir Isachenkov And David Rising, The Associated Press

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