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Putin critic Alexei Navalny in coma after drinking  ‘poisoned tea’

The news seemed to affirm a long-held suspicion that Mr Navalny would face such an ordeal. A host of Kremlin critics, viewed by officials in Moscow as traitors or fifth columnists for the West, have suffered similar fates in recent years at home and abroad.

Tatiana Stanovaya, a prominent political analyst, said she suspected that Mr Navalny had been attacked by the subject of one of his investigations into corruption or one of “the regime’s guard dogs”.

“Someone might have attempted to protect the country’s ‘stability’ in a way that matched their own depravity,” Ms Stanovaya said. “Someone might have thought killing him would do the Kremlin a favour.”

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