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The Wife of a Comatose Russian Dissident Says Her Husband Was Poisoned

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It was an unknown poison that caused Russian opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza to slip into a life-threatening coma, his wife said on Monday.

Kara-Murza, who has described political assassinations as Kremlin policy, remains unconscious and has been kept alive by artificial respiration in Moscow since Thursday with doctors perplexed by his symptoms, the New York Times reports.

The alleged poisoning comes amid heightened scrutiny of the treatment of political dissidents by Russia, with which U.S. President Donald Trump appears to have drawn a kind of moral equivalency. During an interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly on Sunday, Trump said that he respected the Russian leader — and when O’Reilly described Putin as a killer Trump noted that the U.S. was far from blameless.

“You think our country’s so innocent?” Trump asked rhetorically.

Russian opposition activist Kara-Murza looks on following a visit of deputy candidates to State Duma in Moscow
Russian opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza following a visit of deputy candidates to the State Duma in Moscow on June 1, 2016Sergei Karpukhin—Reuters

Several critics of the Kremlin have died unexpectedly in recent years, with killings outside Russian territory given parliamentary approval in 2006.

This is not the first time Kara-Murza has been at the center of such a case. A French laboratory determined that he had elevated levels of heavy metals in his blood, but could not tie them to a specific poison, after he suffered similar symptoms in 2015. At the time, the Putin critic recuperated in the U.S. and claimed he was poisoned.

Kara-Murza’s condition is stable but critical according to his wife, who described the symptoms’ onset as being just as sudden this time around. She told the Times that doctors had diagnosed her husband with “acute intoxication by an unidentified substance.”

Besides poisoning, “We don’t see any other explanation,” she said.


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Write to Joseph Hincks at joseph.hincks@time.com