Russian opposition leader Navalny able to leave hospital bed

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FILE- In this Dec. 26, 2019, file photo, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny speaks to the media in front of a security officer standing guard at the Foundation for Fighting Corruption office in Moscow, Russia. The German government says specialist labs in France and Sweden have confirmed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

BERLIN – Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is able to breathe on his own and briefly leave his hospital bed, his doctors said Monday, while Germany announced that French and Swedish labs have confirmed its findings that he was poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok.

Navalny, 44, was flown to Berlin for treatment at the Charite hospital two days after falling ill on a domestic flight in Russia on Aug. 20. Germany has demanded that Russia investigate the case, while Moscow has accused the West of trying to smear Russia.

Navalny has “successfully been removed from mechanical ventilation” and is able to leave his bed "for short periods of time,” the hospital said.

Although noting the improvement in Navalny's health, the statement didn’t address the long-term outlook for the anti-corruption campaigner and most prominent opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Doctors previously cautioned that even though Navalny is recovering, long-term health problems from the poisoning cannot be ruled out.

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

The news about Navalny’s condition came as his associates made some gains in regional elections held across Russia on Sunday.

In Novosibirsk, which Navalny visited before falling ill, the head of his regional headquarters, Sergei Boiko, won a seat on the city council. United Russia, the main Kremlin party that Navalny has dubbed a “party of crooks and thieves,” lost its majority on the council, according to preliminary returns. Another Navalny representative, Ksenia Fadeyeva, won a city council seat in Tomsk, the city he left on the flight on which he fell ill.

The German government said tests by labs in France and Sweden backed up findings by a German military lab 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.