Alexei Navalny felt no pain. Still, he knew he was close to death when he collapsed on a plane in August—the result of poisoning with a previously unknown type of Novichok, the Russian-developed nerve agent. "I've compared it to being touched by a Dementor in a Harry Potter novel—you feel that life is leaving you," the Russian opposition leader tells the New Yorker. "Every cell in my body goes berserk, and the brain understands that this is the end." Navalny was on a plane, traveling back to Moscow from Tomsk, where he'd been campaigning against President Vladimir Putin's party, when he experienced "a kind of incomprehension." His brain seemed unable to grasp basic concepts, like how to open the bathroom door. "This was worse than pain," he says. "I informed the flight attendant that I was about to die, right there on their plane."
The next few weeks were full of "awful hallucinations." When Navalny finally awoke from a coma in a Berlin hospital 26 days later, he couldn't speak or write. "I would just stare," he says. In physical therapy, "I had to use a tablespoon to scoop up water from one glass and pour it into the other," he adds. "It was so f---ing difficult. It was unbearable torment." Navalny, who works to expose corruption in government, says he's "sure" Putin was responsible for the attack. He believes authorities only allowed him to be flown to Germany because they thought his body would show no signs of Novichok after 48 hours. He's now calling on President Trump to condemn the attack. He tells CBS News that step is "extremely important" as the attack "proves" Putin is developing and improving chemical weapons even though they are banned. (More on his recovery here.)