Alexei Navalny’s associates say that the nerve agent used to poison the Russian opposition leader was found on a water bottle in his hotel room shortly after he fell ill on the plane back to Moscow.
Mr Navalny, President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critic, was on a ventilator in a medically induced coma for weeks after falling suddenly ill on a flight from Siberia to Moscow last month.
Several European laboratories independently confirmed that the top Kremlin critic had been poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok, previously used in the attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury.
Mr Navalny’s team revealed in a social media post on Thursday that the poison was found on one of the free water bottles that his colleagues retrieved from his hotel in the Siberian city of Tomsk shortly after Mr Navalny became unwell on the plane.
The 44-year-old opposition leader was in Tomsk with his team in mid-August filming a video for an anti-corruption investigation and headed back to Moscow while some of his colleagues stayed behind, according to his spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh.
Mr Navalny’s colleagues went to his room as soon as they heard that he lost consciousness on the plane that later had to make an emergency landing. He was treated by Russian doctors in Siberia for two days before his medical evacuation to Germany.
Mr Navalny’s team released a video on Thursday, showing his colleagues going through things left at the hotel including empty water bottles and packing them up in plastic bags.
“They decided to take everything that could be useful and bring it to German doctors,” the social media post said. “It was obvious that Russia was not going to investigate it.”
Mr Navalny’s associates confirmed earlier reports by German media outlet Der Spiegel saying that the poison was found on a water bottle, saying that “now we know: it was done before he left his hotel room for the airport.”
The Kremlin denies any involvement in Mr Navalny’s poisoning while Russian police have refused to launch an official inquiry.
Ms Yarmysh said that police have seized CCTV tapes but never launched a formal investigation.
Mr Navalny was brought out of a medically induced coma earlier this month and said in his first social media post since the poisoning on Tuesday that he was breathing unaided for the first time in weeks. Doctors have said that his condition was improving but did not rule out long-term damage to his health.