A top doctor at the Russian hospital where opposition leader Alexei Navalny was treated immediately after his poisoning last summer has died, the hospital said on Thursday.
Sergey Maximishin, who was the deputy chief physician of the Omsk emergency hospital, “suddenly” died at the age of 55, according to a statement released by the hospital.
“With regret, we inform you that…the deputy chief physician for anaesthesiology and resuscitation of the emergency hospital №1, assistant of the department of Omsk State Medical University, PhD of medical sciences Maximishin Sergey Valentinovich suddenly passed away,” the hospital said in a statement, which did not mention a cause of death.
A spokeswoman from Omsk’s regional health ministry told CNN on Friday that according to “preliminary data” Maximishin had died as a result of a heart attack. She would not provide further details.
Navalny was initially admitted to the acute poisoning unit of Omsk emergency hospital No. 1 on August 20, after falling ill from exposure to military-grade Novichok on a plane heading from Siberia to Moscow. The plane made an emergency landing in Omsk.
Maximishin did not give any press briefings at the time of Navalny’s hospitalisation. As the hospital’s deputy chief physician for anaesthesiology and resuscitation, he was one of the most senior doctors at the hospital.
Navalny was put into a medically induced coma and eventually evacuated to the German capital of Berlin, where he spent five months recovering from the poisoning. After returning to Russia, he was arrested, and was sentenced to prison this week for violating probation terms of a previous sentence. The verdict sparked swift condemnation abroad, including the US.
Navalny blames his poisoning on Russian security services and on President Vladimir Putin himself, accusations that the Kremlin has repeatedly denied. A CNN-Bellingcat investigation in December has implicated the Russian Security Service (FSB) in the attack. Navalny also duped one of the agents into revealing that he was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok applied to his underwear.
Leonid Volkov, Navalny’s chief of staff, confirmed Maximishin was in charge of treating the opposition leader. “Sergey Maximishin was the head of department that treated Alexei Navalny and was in charge of his treatment — specifically his medically induced coma,” Volkov told CNN.
“(Maximishin) knew more than anyone else about Alexei’s condition so I can’t dismiss possibility of foul play,” he added.
“However Russia’s health care system is very poor and it’s not uncommon for doctors of his age to suddenly die. I doubt there will any investigation into his death,” Volkov continued.
CNN is seeking additional comment from local health authorities into the cause of Maximishin’s death. Deaths of Russian frontline medical workers, including whistleblowers, became a politically charged topic in the country amid the Covid-19 pandemic. CNN has no evidence that any foul play was involved.
The minister of health of the Omsk region said in statement that Maximishin had worked at the hospital for 28 years and saved thousands of lives.
“He brought people back to full reality. We will miss Dr. Maximishin very much. He left too early and because of this the pain of loss is especially bitter,” Alexander Murakhovsky said in a statement.