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Putin critic Alexei Navalny looks alert in 1st photo since Novichok poisoning

Navalny speaks for first time since poisoning
Navalny speaks for first time since poisoning... 00:39

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, recovering in a German hospital from poisoning with a Soviet-era nerve agent, made his first public comment Tuesday since he fell ill. The post on his Instagram feed featured a photo of Navalny sitting up on a hospital bed surrounded by his two smiling children and his wife.

"I still can hardly do anything, but yesterday I was able to breathe on my own all day. All by myself," he said, a day after the Charite Hospital in Berlin confirmed that he had been taken off a ventilator.

"I liked it very much," Navalny said of breathing without mechanical assistance. "An amazing, underestimated by many, process. I recommend it."

It was the first visual evidence that Navanly's health has indeed improved significantly since he was admitted to the Berlin hospital last month and put quickly into a medically induced coma.

Doctors at Charite said on Monday that he'd been removed from the ventilator and was able to get out of bed for short periods of time, but his supporters in Russia will have been relieved to see the photo of him sitting up and looking alert on Tuesday.

Navalny, 44, fell ill during a domestic flight from Russia's northern Siberia region to Moscow on August 20. The plane was diverted and remained in Siberia, where Navalny was initially hospitalized for several days before being transferred to Germany for treatment.

Laboratories in France and Sweden confirmed this week the earlier findings of a German military lab that said there was no doubt the Kremlin critic had been poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent.

Moscow continues to deny not only any role in a poisoning, but that there's even any evidence of a poisoning to investigate. The Kremlin has complained that Berlin is ignoring its request to see evidence that Navalny was poisoned with Novichok.

Russian opposition leader poisoned 08:45

Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on a radio show that there was a "substantial chance" Navalny had been attacked under had been ordered by "senior Russian officials."

Germany said Monday that in addition to the French and Swedish labs, samples from Navalny had also been taken by representatives from the global chemical weapons watchdog, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Navanly has been one of the most vocal and prominent critics of President Vladimir Putin, and according to a report published by The New York Times, citing a senior German official, he plans to return to Russia as soon as he recovers sufficiently.

"It's puzzling to me why anyone should think otherwise," Navalny's spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh wrote on Twitter.

The anonymous German official quoted by the Times said Navalny was "fully aware of his condition, he's fully aware of what happened and he's fully aware of where he is."

The Kremlin reacted to the latest news on Navalny by saying on Tuesday that he was welcome to come back.

"Like any citizen of the Russian Federation, he is free to leave Russia and return to Russia," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. He also said that the Kremlin sees no need for a meeting between any representative of Putin's government and Navalny. 

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