A doctor who oversaw the treatment of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has gone missing.
Dr Alexander Murakhovsky, 49, has not been seen since Friday after vanishing in a Siberian forest amid reports of wild bears in the vicinity.
The doctor, who had been on a hunting trip in the remote Omsk region, had overseen Mr Navalny’s initial treatment after he claimed he had been poisoned with novichok by the Kremlin.
In February another doctor who treated the activist died in mysterious circumstances amid claims he had been ‘liquidated’. The following month a further medic died after ‘suffering a stroke’, prompting claims the death was suspicious. Mr Navalny fell ill on a flight from Tomsk to Moscow in August last year with suspected novichok poisoning.
He was then taken to a hospital headed by Dr Murakhovsky, who said medics had found no evidence of nerve agents.
The doctor was then controversially promoted to health minister of Omsk.
He was swiftly mocked on Twitter by Mr Navalny, 44, who said: ‘You lie, fake test results, are ready to please the bosses in any way – you get an award and a promotion.’ Dr Murakhovsky’s ‘stuck’ all-terrain vehicle has reportedly been found in the forest and two bears were located nearby.
There were unconfirmed claims that he had contacted other hunters by radio to say that he would go on by foot - but was confused over which direction to go.
His friends looked for him but failed to locate the missing minister.
Russian national guards, police, emergency ministry staff and volunteers are involved in the exercises with helicopters deployed to find him.
When Dr Sergei Maksimishin died in February his colleagues said his demise was “very unexpected”.
It was denied he died from Covid-19, while there were also claims he had succumbed to a heart attack.
He had suffered extremely high blood pressure shortly before his death, said reports.
“The issue is not whether he was involved in the treatment of Alexei Navalny, but the reason for his liquidation was his readiness to share information about the treatment that he had access to,” said a post on a Telegram channel called General SVR.
The channel - which claims access to leaked secrets from the Russian elite - did not give any direct evidence for its claim.
Navalny, 44, fell acutely ill on a flight from Tomsk to Moscow last August.
The plane made an emergency landing in Omsk, and Navalny was taken to the hospital headed by Dr Murakhovsky.
Local health chiefs and doctors claimed they found no evidence of novichok in Navalny’s blood, and denied he had been poisoned.
OMSK, May 10 - RIA Novosti. The search for the Minister of Health of the Omsk Region, Alexander Murakhovsky, has been resumed in the morning https://t.co/s59JUcFT7Z— Elena Evdokimova (@elenaevdokimov7) May 10, 2021
But there were also claims that the hospital was full of agents of the security service FSB, which was later accused of poisoning Navalny.
He was then airlifted to Germany, where doctors concluded he had been poisoned with a military grade nerve agent.
Navalny returned to Russia and was immediately arrested.
He was jailed in February for parole violations, on what he says were politically motivated charges, and sent to a penal colony.
Navalny subsequently staged a hunger strike as tens of thousands protested across Russian demanding his release.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.