MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was allowed to leave a hospital bed for the first time on Saturday after a seven-month stay following multiple bouts of ill health, including a hip injury.Pro-Kremlin opposition leader Alexei Navalny arrives to serve dinner to members of Russian Police during a rally in Yekaterinburg, Russia, September 7, 2015. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko
Russian President Vladimir Putin will hand over control of the country to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Oct. 14 in one of the biggest political power-sharing deals in the post-Soviet era.
Navalny, who led protests against Putin’s presidency for more than two years, has spent much of that time in a hospital bed while receiving treatment.
“Our hope is to write a successful final chapter to the history of Russian politics and Russia will further rise,” Navalny said in a statement published on social media.
“As for those who came to congratulate me on this milestone, all they can say is that I am a better man than I was yesterday,” Navalny said.
Three bodies representing the other members of Navalny’s Movement took to the streets of Moscow to celebrate his first departure from the hospital.
Oleg Erovashvili, the organization’s president, called the opposition leader a “real future leader”, saying that his freedom to return to the stage had been secured and that much work was to come in the political system.
Navalny and Medvedev first clashed after the former prime minister failed to respond to Navalny’s criticisms over rigged parliamentary elections in 2013. A vote to change the electoral law which would have extended the rule of Putin returned him to a second consecutive term.
He won nearly 150,000 votes. Marina Kalugina, a spokeswoman for Navalny, said the Kremlin campaign had been mobilized to ensure this verdict in the parliamentary election.
Medvedev has said he is not interested in returning to government but has said he is not ruling out stepping down because the political leadership was not created for that purpose.
Putin won another presidential election in May on promises to keep his grip on power beyond 2024. Navalny has said he will not stand in the next election.
A new wave of protests is set to start in December when Navalny plans to announce his candidacy for the 2018 presidential election, angering Medvedev.