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Russia to investigate Alexei Navalny’s suspected poisoning amid outcry

Russia has launched a preliminary probe into the suspected poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny amid growing pressure from world leaders to investigate.

Investigators in Siberia have been working on “establishing all the circumstances of the incident” that left Navalny in a coma last week, according to a statement released Thursday by a Siberian branch of Russia’s Interior Ministry.

They are also conducting forensic testing and collecting items “that may have probative value.”

The probe will determine whether a criminal investigation should be launched.

Navalny fell ill on a flight back to Moscow from Siberia last Thursday after aides alleged he sipped spiked tea at an airport. He was taken to a hospital in the Siberian city of Omsk — where doctors said they don’t believe Navalny was poisoned.

He was transferred to the Charité hospital in Berlin over the weekend. Doctors there found indications of “cholinesterase inhibitors” in his system but haven’t yet identified a specific substance.

Cholinesterase inhibitors act by blocking the breakdown of acetylcholine, a key chemical in the body, which transmits signals between nerve cells.

Aides of Navalny, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critics, have blamed the Kremlin for the alleged poisoning.

On Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he saw no ground for a criminal case until the cause of the politician’s illness was fully established.

The Interior Ministry’s statement didn’t say when the preliminary probe had started.

The announcement comes after world leaders including US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel called upon Russia to launch a full and transparent investigation.

Putin and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte discussed Navalny’s condition in a phone call Wednesday night.

Putin pointed out that “premature and unfounded accusations” were unacceptable and underscored Russia’s “interest in a thorough and objective investigation of all the circumstances of the incident,” according to the Kremlin’s readout of the call.

With Post wires

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