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Navalny says 'amazing' to breathe unaided, eyes Russia return

Berlin: Opposition leader Alexei Navalny said Tuesday he was able to breathe unaided in his first public comments after his suspected poisoning in Siberia, while his aide said he planned to return to Russia once recovered.

The 44-year-old lawyer and outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin fell severely ill on August 20 on a flight from the Siberian city of Tomsk to Moscow after a trip to support opposition candidates in local elections.

Germany said there was "unequivocal evidence" that Russia's most prominent opposition figure was poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent but Moscow has angrily dismissed the findings, saying its doctors found no trace of poison.

"Hello, this is Navalny," he wrote in a post on Instagram, appearing with his wife and two children in the Berlin hospital where he was flown for treatment after falling ill.

Wearing a hospital gown, he looked gaunt and barely smiled while his wife Yulia beamed next to him.

"Yesterday I was able to breathe on my own all day," he wrote.

"It's an amazing process and underestimated by many. I recommend it," joked Navalny, who has 1.8 million followers on Instagram.

"I miss you"," he told his supporters.

The anti-corruption campaigner's suspected poisoning has sparked sharp condemnation from Western leaders who have called for a thorough investigation and those responsible to be brought to justice.

Germany said Monday that French and Swedish labs had independently confirmed findings by doctors in Berlin that Navalny was poisoned with Novichok.

Navalny's allies say the use of the banned chemical weapon means that only the Russian state could be responsible.

Navalny's spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said separately that the opposition leader planned to return to Russia.

"No other option has ever been considered," she told AFP.

Russia has angrily dismissed Germany's findings, saying its doctors found no trace of poison when Navalny was first taken to hospital in Siberia and Putin this week dismissed "unsubstantiated claims" over his top critic's

illness. AGENCIES

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