Navalny's aide optimistic politician could soon fly to Germany

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BERLIN (Reuters) - German doctors have been allowed access to the hospitalised Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny, raising the hope that authorities might allow him to be transferred to Germany for treatment soon, his chief of staff said.

Leonid Volkov, Navalny’s right-hand man, said what he described as the sudden and unexpected decision of doctors in Omsk not to release Navalny to the waiting air ambulance, was a cover-up to prevent the world finding out what happened to him.

“What was the factor that influenced that this young and sporty man to this extent that he was nearly dead and had to be put in coma and on a ventilator to be stabilised is still unclear,” he told a Berlin news conference.

Navalny’s allies suspect he was poisoned before boarding a flight to Moscow and have suggested that it will no longer be possible to trace the poison if too much time passes before independent tests are performed.

He said doctors had changed their minds about letting Navalny fly after security officials- had taken over the decision-making process from the doctors.

“It was a moment when the medical staff, the people in the white robes, were literally substituted by people in grey suits in their office,” he added, naming Russia’s FSB security service.

Jaka Bizilj, founder of the Cinema for Peace Foundation that sent the aircraft on its overnight trip to Omsk, said the doctors’ decision not to let Navalny be transported came as a surprise after Russian authorities granted permission for the flight.

Two years ago, the Foundation brought activist Pyotr Verzilov to Berlin for treatment. Doctors concluded that Verzlov, a member of the dissident art collective Pussy Riot, had been poisoned, but it was too late at that stage to identify the agent.

Reporting by Caroline Copley and Thomas Escritt; Editing by Angus MacSwan