The chief doctor of a hospital which treated Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny after he was poisoned with nerve-agent novichok has gone missing in a bear infested forest.
Dr Alexander Murakhovsky was last seen on Friday in Omsk region in the mid-south of Russia near the border of Kazakhstan.
The 49-year-old went missing amid warnings of wild brown bear activity in the area – with those close to the medic growing increasingly concerned for his safety.
In February, Dr Sergei Maksimishin, who worked at the same hospital as Dr Murakhovsky, and who had treated now imprisoned politician Navalny, died suddenly aged 55.
And in March, 63-year-old Dr Rustam Agishev died following a stroke, although there are reports it is suspicious.
A major search is now underway to locate Dr Murakhovsky after he went missing during a hunting trip.
According to reports the doctor’s all-terrain vehicle was found abandoned and stuck in a forest, with two brown bears found nearby.
There have been claims the doctor tried to make communication with other hunters over a radio saying he planned to continue his hunt on foot, but was confused which direction to go in, before he went missing.
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Russian national guards, police, emergency ministry staff, helicopters and volunteers are all reportedly looking for the doctor.
Dr Murakhovsky had previously clashed with Alexei Navalny – who is arguably the only political rival to Russian President Vladimir Putin, 68.
Dr Murakhovsky had reported that he could find no evidence 44-year-old Mr Navalny had been poisoned when he fell gravely ill in November last year.
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After denying evidence of poisoning, Dr Murakhovsky was subsequently promoted to become health minister in Omsk region.
Hitting out at the decision via Twitter, Mr Navalny wrote: "You lie, fake test results, are ready to please the bosses in any way – you get an award and a promotion".
Following Dr Maksimishin’s sudden death in February, a telegram post by General SVR claimed: “The issue is not whether he was involved in the treatment of Alexei Navalny, but the reason for his liquidation was his readiness to share information about the treatment that he had access to.”
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Mr Navalny had been on a flight from Tomsk to Moscow in August when he fell seriously ill, prompting an emergency landing in Omsk.
He was subsequently airlifted to Germany where doctors diagnosed that he had been poisoned with a military grade nerve agent.
When he returned to Russia after recovering earlier this year, Mr Navalny was immediately arrested and sent to a penal colony where he recently staged a hunger strike.
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