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UPDATE 2-Germany activists say they are sending plane to pick up Navalny

(Adds Foundation’s statement)

BERLIN, Aug 20 (Reuters) - An ambulance aircraft with a team specialised in treating coma patients is due to leave Germany to pick up stricken Russian dissident Alexei Navalny on Thursday evening, the Berlin-based Cinema for Peace Foundation said.

Navalny was taken ill earlier on Thursday with suspected poisoning and is currently in a coma in a hospital in the Siberian city of Omsk.

In 2018, the Foundation, founded by Slovenian-born activist and filmmaker Jaka Bizilj, arranged here to have anti-Kremlin activist Pyotr Verzilov brought to Berlin for treatment after he was poisoned in Moscow.

The activists said that Verzilov, a member of the dissident Pussy Riot art collective, had requested a plane be sent for Navalny.

“For humanitarian reasons, at Pussy Riot’s Pyotr Verzilov’s request, we will send at midnight an air ambulance with medical equipment and specialists with which Navalny can be brought to Germany,” Bizilj said in a statement.

“We are in contact with the authorities and hope that all permits for the transport and a medical report for the coma patient will be given tonight,” he said, adding that Berlin’s Charite hospital was ready to take him.

No one at the hospital was immediately available to comment.

Bizilj told Bild newspaper that the plane would return from Omsk on Friday morning, provided Navalny was in a fit condition to travel.

Earlier, Chancellor Angela Merkel had told reporters that Germany was ready to provide medical support to Navalny if it received a request to do so.

“If asked to we will provide him with medical assistance, including German hospitals, but the request has to come from there,” she told a joint news conference held with French President Emmanuel Macron in southern France.

An official from the German Foreign Ministry said they were aware of a “private initiative” to bring Navalny to Germany.

Navalny, a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin, began feeling ill on a plane to Moscow on Thursday morning after drinking tea at an airport cafe in the Siberian city of Tomsk.

If his illness is confirmed as a poisoning, it would be the latest in a long series of such cases and suspected cases involving people who have fallen out with the Kremlin, which denies settling scores with its foes by murdering them. (Reporting by Madeline Chambers and Thomas Escritt; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Nick Macfie)

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