Close ally of Kremlin critic Navalny appears on social media after reports of fleeing Russia

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Russian opposition figure Lyubov Sobol speaks with journalists after a court hearing in Moscow

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Lyubov Sobol, a prominent ally of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, appeared on social media on Thursday after what she called "a rather complex nose surgery", nearly three weeks after reports she had left Russia.

On Aug. 8, Russia's RT and REN TV channels cited sources saying that Sobol, 33, one of the most well-known faces of Navalny's entourage, had left Russia for Turkey. Neither Sobol nor her allies have commented on her whereabouts.

Earlier this month, she was sentenced to 1-1/2 years of parole-like restrictions for flouting COVID-19 curbs on protests, a charge she called politically-motivated nonsense. The restrictions included not being allowed to leave home at night.

On Thursday, Sobol posted two photos of herself in a blue hospital-type shirt, with black eyes and her nose bandaged. "Don't worry," she wrote without disclosing her location.

"I survived a rather complex nose surgery which lasted for 4 hours under a general anaesthesia and which was planed before my house arrest and even before Navalny's poisoning."

Sobol expressed gratitude to a doctor, saying she can now freely breath through her nose again, something she has struggled with for years, and said 'a long recovery period' lay ahead.

The doctor, Armen Veranyan, is a cosmetic surgeon with an Armenian cellphone number on his Instagram page. A lawyer for Sobol, Vladimir Voronin, said he did not know whether she was in Armenia.

Neither Sobol nor Veranyan replied to Reuters messages seeking comment.

Navalny was flown to Germany last year after being poisoned with what the West concluded was a military nerve agent. Moscow rejected that conclusion and alleged it was a Western smear campaign. Navalny was jailed when he flew back to Russia.

(Reporting by Anton Zverev and Katya Golubkova; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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