Poisoned Putin Critic Out of Coma, Wife Says

The activist is being treated after apparently being poisoned for a second time.

MOSCOW -- The Putin critic, Vladimir Kara-Murza, who has been in a coma for a week after apparently being poisoned, has regained consciousness and is now awake, his wife has told ABC News.

Vladimir Kara-Murza has been in a hospital in critical condition since last Thursday when he abruptly fell ill, poisoned, doctors say, by an unknown substance.

The thirty-five year-old has been on life-support since then and was placed into an artificial coma after his major organs failed within a matter of hours.

Unable to identify what was causing the poisoning, doctors have been racing to clean his system, putting him on hemodialysis.

On Wednesday night though, his wife, Evgenia, told ABC News that he was “doing better” and was now conscious.

“He’s awake but confused. He doesn’t remember everything,” Evgenia Kara-Murza wrote in text messages on Wednesday.

“He’s doing better but there are still risks and complications of course,” she added, saying his heart and kidneys were also doing better. The improvement is good news, though he is not yet out of danger.

Vladimir Kara-Murza is a well-known opposition activist, an organizer for Open Russia, the political organization founded by the exiled oligarch, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and also works with Russia's main anti-Putin parties.

This is the second time that Vladimir Kara-Murza has apparently been poisoned in two years.

The last time, where he suffered similar symptoms, he was left with nerve damage forcing him to walk with a cane. After that incident Vladimir Kara-Murza told various American and Russian news media that he believed he had been targeted because of his work but did not know who was responsible.

Then as now, the substance with which he is believed to have been poisoned has remained a mystery. Lab tests could not detect it, though a French laboratory did pick up traces of heavy metals in his blood. Evgenia Kara-Murza says samples of his hair and nails have again been taken for tests.

She says she believes the poisoning this time must again be connected with her husband’s activism but that she cannot say who would try to kill him.

Vladimir Kara-Murza is active in many circles of the opposition.

He was a close friend and collaborator of the murdered opposition leader, Boris Nemtsov, who was shot dead in front of the Kremlin in 2015.

In recent years, Kara-Murza has appeared repeatedly before the U.S. Congress to call for it to impose sanctions on Russian human rights abusers.

The case has drawn parallels with the poisoning of another Putin critic in 2006. Aleksander Litvinenko, a former agent from Russia’s FSB intelligence service, died after being tricked into drinking a radioactive metal, slipped into his tea by two former KGB officers in London.

A British government-ordered inquiry found Putin must have almost certainly ordered the killing.

Vladimir Kara-Murza’s poisoning has attracted attention in the U.S., where senators from both sides of the aisle have said it illustrates why they ought to be alarmed by President Donald Trump’s overtures to Putin.

In a pre-Super Bowl interview with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, President Trump replied to O'Reilly's criticism of Putin as "a killer" by saying, "we have a lot of killers too. What, you think our country's so innocent?"

On Tuesday Sen. John McCain took to the house floor to condemn Vladimir Kara-Murza's poisoning and implicitly President Trump's comments.

"Vladimir knew there was no moral equivalence between the United States and Putin’s Russia," McCain said of Vladimir Kara-Murza. "And anyone who would make such a suggestion maligns the character of our great nation and does a disservice to all those whose blood is on Putin’s hands.”

McCain also praised Vladimir Kara-Murza as one of the most effective advocates for the Magnitsky Act, sanctions legislation that punishes Russian officials involved in the killing of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer who uncovered a massive tax fraud scheme in 2009.

Vladimir Kara-Murza appeared repeatedly before Congress to persuade it to adopt the Act, and a later one in 2015 that broadened the sanctions to include any Russian official committing rights abuses.

Russia has sought to punish others involved in the campaign to pass the Act, which bars offenders from travelling to or holding property in the U.S..

There is no indication yet on whether Vladimir Kara-Murza’s poisoning is connected to his work around Magnitsky. His wife notes there are many people in Russia who would be interested in silencing him.

Evgenia Kara-Murza, who lives in Virginia with the couple’s three young children, told ABC News that she believed her husband’s case and the harassment of other Putin critics should deter President Trump from pursuing friendlier relations with the Kremlin.

“He must know people such as Putin are not friends,” she said in an interview. “They cannot be treated on friendly terms. And the United States needs to stand up for its principles.”

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