The condition of poisoned Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny has improved, doctors treating him in Berlin said.
Charité, the Berlin hospital where the most vocal critic of Russian president Vladimir Putin is being treated, said on Monday that Mr Navalny had been “removed from his medically-induced coma and was being weaned off mechanical ventilation”.
“He is responding to verbal stimuli,” the hospital added in a statement. “It remains too early to gauge the potential long-term effects of his severe poisoning.”
Mr Navalny, Russia’s most prominent anti-corruption activist, fell ill on a flight from Siberia after drinking a cup of tea at the airport in Tomsk on August 20. He was then flown to Berlin for treatment.
The German government said last week that a toxicology test by a specialist military laboratory proved “beyond all doubt” that he was poisoned with the chemical nerve agent, novichok.
Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union, was also used in the 2018 Salisbury poisonings that targeted former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.
Mr Navalny’s poisoning and subsequent treatment in Germany has strained German-Russian relations, already worsened by the murder of a Chechen rebel in a Berlin park last year and a huge hack on the Bundestag computer system in 2015.
Previously, German chancellor Angela Merkel had sought to separate the political tensions from the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline, linking Russian gas to Germany’s Baltic coast.
But at the weekend, German foreign minister Heiko Maas said he hoped Russia would not force Berlin to “change our stance” by failing to co-operate with the investigation into Mr Navalny’s poisoning.
If Moscow did not begin assisting with the inquiries “in the next few days”, Berlin would start talks with other countries on how to respond, Mr Maas told Bild am Sonntag newspaper.