The Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is in a coma and on a ventilator in a hospital intensive care unit after a suspected poisoning his supporters believe is tied to his anti-Kremlin activism.

An outspoken critic of the Russian president Vladimir Putin, Navalny was returning to Moscow by plane from Siberia when he fell ill, prompting the captain to make an emergency landing in Omsk, where he was taken to hospital. A mobile video shot on the plane showed medical personnel rushing onboard as Navalny screamed in agony.

The 44-year-old’s press secretary Kira Yarmysh told the Echo of Moscow radio station that Navalny had began sweating and then lost consciousness shortly after take-off.

“I am sure this was deliberate poisoning,” she said, adding that she suspected a cup of black tea he drank at an airport cafe was the source. She tied the alleged poisoning to upcoming elections in the Siberian regions they had visited.

Officials at the emergency care hospital in Omsk where Navalny is being treated gave contradictory information about his condition and have not allowed his family or supporters in to see him.

Anatoly Kalinichenko, the deputy chief doctor of the hospital, confirmed that Navalny was unconscious and on a ventilator, but called his condition “stable”. Doctors “are currently engaged in the process of saving his life” he said on Thursday afternoon.

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