Alexander Murakhovsky, the Siberian doctor who treated President Vladimir Putin’s critic Alexei Navalny after he was reportedly poisoned with novichok last year, has disappeared, Russian police said on Sunday May 9.
The physician, 49, was last seen leaving a hunting base in a forest in the Omsk region around 2,200 km (1,370 miles) east of Moscow in an all-terrain vehicle on Friday, police said.
There are unconfirmed claims that he contacted other hunters by radio to say that he would go on by foot but was confused over which direction to go amid reports of wild bears in the vicinity.
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.
A search effort was already underway including emergency services, drones, a helicopter, and volunteers on the ground.
In February another doctor who treated the activist died in mysterious circumstances amid claims he had been ‘liquidated’. The following month another medic died after ‘suffering a stroke’, prompting claims the death was suspicious.
Mr. Navalny fell ill during a domestic flight from Siberia to Moscow in August last year with suspected Novichok poisoning. He was eventually allowed to be airlifted to Germany for further treatment.
Dr. Murakhovsky had said that initial laboratory tests after treating Navalny had not shown traces of the Novichok nerve agent.
But tests by laboratories in three European countries, confirmed by the international chemical weapons watchdog OPCW, said that poison had in fact been used on the opposition figure.
The Kremlin has denied accusations of being behind the attempted killing of one of President Vladimir Putin’s main political opponents.
In November 2020, Dr. Murakhovsky was controversially promoted to regional health minister of Omsk.
He was called out 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.’
When Navalny returned to Russia, he 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.