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Navalny in 2019. Photo: Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP via Getty Images

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was probably poisoned but is not currently in danger of dying, according to doctors at the Berlin hospital where he remains in an induced coma, per AP.

Why it matters: Navalny is the best-known critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and several other prominent government critics have been poisoned in recent years.

  • The Berlin hospital said only that doctors found "cholinesterase inhibitors" in his system — a wide categorization that could encompass substances ranging from household insecticides to VX nerve gas.

What they're saying: "In view of Mr. Navalny’s major role in Russia’s political opposition, the country’s authorities are urgently called upon to fully investigate this act as a matter of urgency — and to do so in a completely transparent way," German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in a joint statement.

  • "Those responsible must be identified and brought to justice."

The backdrop: Navalny became seriously ill shortly after boarding a flight last Thursday to Moscow from Siberia, where he met with opposition politicians.

  • An aide traveling with him alleged that poison was added to tea he ordered at the airport. The plane made an emergency landing in Omsk, Siberia.
  • Police quickly assembled at the hospital — though authorities said they were not investigating a possible crime — and doctors said they found no signs of poison in his system.
  • After authorities initially refused to allow him to travel abroad for treatment, Navalny was flown to Germany.

Go deeper

Sep 18, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Biden's hardline Russia reset

Photo Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Getty Images photos: Mark Reinstein

When he talks about Russia, Joe Biden has sounded like Ronald Reagan all summer, setting up a potential Day 1 confrontation with Russian President Vladimir Putin if Biden were to win.

Why it matters: Biden has promised a forceful response against Russia for both election interference and alleged bounty payments to target American troops in Afghanistan. But being tougher than President Trump could be the easy part. The risk is overdoing it and making diplomacy impossible.

2 hours ago - World

Hong Kong pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai detained on fraud charge

An activist holds a placard highlighting China's Tiananmen Square massacre as pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai arrives at West Kowloon Magistrates' Court in Hong Kong in November. Photo: Isaac Wong/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai is being detained until an April court hearing after the pro-democracy supporter was charged Thursday with fraud, per his Apple Daily news outlet.

Why it matters: The 72-year-old's arrest and denial of bail is another blow for the pro-democracy movement in the former British colony amid concerns about a fresh crackdown on activists.

5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Inhofe loudly sets Trump straight on defense bill

Sen. Jim Inhofe speaks with reporters in the Capitol last month. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Senator Jim Inhofe told President Trump today he'll likely fail to get two big wishes in pending defense spending legislation, bellowing into his cellphone: "This is the only chance to get our bill passed," a source who overheard part of their conversation tells Axios.

Why it matters: Republicans are ready to test whether Trump's threats of vetoing the bill, which has passed every year for more than half a century, are empty.