The Kremlin Cleans Up the Political Field
The Kremlin Cleans Up the Political Field

We have heard a story about an attempt to poison a representative of the Russian opposition Alexei Navalny at the end of August. The politician felt sick on board the plane from Tomsk to Moscow. It was told that Alexei Navalny was collecting the material for his new anti-corruption investigation. Namely this kind of activities brought fame to the already mentioned politician and Anticorruption Foundation established by him.   

We had suspicions right away that Alexei Navalny could have been poisoned. Crew of the aircraft decided to land in Omsk. Here the politician was urgently taken to the hospital. In the medical establishment Alexei Navalny was kept in an induced coma. His health condition was considered as very critical.

Family of the politician and his companions decided to transport Alexei Navalny to Germany for treatment. Cinema for Peace Foundation organized the transportation operation. We should note that the same foundation also transported to Germany for treatment Petr Verzilov – an artist and publisher of Madiazona, who was also poisoned. The businessman Boris Zimin paid all costs for transportation of Alexei Navalny abroad for treatment.   

However, even when a special aircraft landed from Germany in the airport of Omsk, Russian physicians did not rush to pass Alexei Navalny to their German colleagues. It is interesting that physicians used to produce different arguments, which finally were inconsistent with each other. For instance, at first it was announced that toxins were found in the body of Alexei Navalny that might cause risk to surrounding people and thus he could be taken to Germany. When it turned out that the aircraft that arrived from Germany, was duly equipped and therefore Alexei Navalny could be transported without causing any threat to others. Omsk physicians produced other arguments. Now it was stated that no toxic materials were found in the body of the politician and as if his health got worse because of natural causes, but his condition was so critical that transportation would cause danger to his life.

Finally, physicians allowed transporting Alexei Navalny 48 hours later after he got into Omsk hospital. We have even some informal information that this was done after a call from the Kremlin. The agency Reuters was writing about this. In other words, the decision to “allow” Alexei Navalny to be transported abroad could be made at the highest level. The politician was flown to Germany and hospitalized in Scharite Clinic. The police of Germany started securing him right away.

Meanwhile Russia refused to initiate the pre-trial investigation regarding poisoning of Alexei Navalny. Actually, officially it has been denied that this was an attempt to murder this political and public figure. This position would not surprise us too much. Germany managed to determine that Alexei Navalny was poisoned with an agent of Novichok group. Later these conclusions were supported by laboratories in France and Sweden, where corresponding samples were sent, too. Here we have to remind that we heard about the name Novichok for the first time in 2018, when there was an attempt to murder the former Russian intelligence agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. This time, same as two years ago, suspicions about the use of this toxic agent fell on Russian intelligence service. It was also mentioned that it is unlikely that the use of Novichok could be approved without consent of the highest Russian authorities.     

Moscow, as it has been mentioned before, is actively denying all this and sees the conspiracy of the Western world in these events. To be exact, it officially states such a stand. President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko tries to support this stand, too, who is expecting help from Russia now when he is facing massive acts of protestors in his country. Head of Belarus announced that “the West organized poisoning of Alexei Navalny” to the Prime Minister of Russia Mikhail Mishustin when he came to Minsk. Government of Belarus even published as if taken over conversation “between Warsaw and Berlin”, which “proves” that poisoning of Alexei Navalny was organized deliberately in order to cause troubles to the Kremlin and it would not have time to help Belarus. We have to mention that content of the record is quite absurd and almost nobody takes it seriously.   

The intension was to kill

On 10 September we saw some information that Alexei Navalny was recovering from the experienced attempt to kill. It was written that results were better than expected. The publication The Insider was writing that according to information of sources, the politician recovered by 90 percent in a physical point of view and fully in a psychological point of view. It was announced that Alexei Navalny remembered everything well what had happened before the moment when he fell unconscious on board the plane. It means that he can produce very valuable evidence in order to determine conditions of his poisoning. Also, it was published that security of Alexei Navalny in the clinic was strengthened. By the way, a spokesperson of the politician announced that publication of The Insider was “too exaggerating”. She did not specify what she had in mind; however we can presume that the health condition of Alexei Navalny actually is not as good as it was announced.       

Today there are no doubts that the goal of poisoning was to kill Alexei Navalny and not just threaten or “warn” him. It was told that it seemed that they were expecting the politician to die on board the plane. It was also mentioned that several aspects saved the life of Alexei Navalny. One of them was the decision of the aircraft crew to land in Omsk. The other was that a physician from the emergency unit injected him Atropine to the politician. 

We must mention that five minutes after the aircraft crew decided to land in Omsk where Alexei Navalny was, the airport of Omsk got an anonymous call telling that the airport was mined. This was either a crazy coincidence or just a proof that somebody didn’t want Alexei Navalny to get emergency medical treatment.

Actually, poisoning of Alexei Navalny demonstrates a clear tendency. After an attempt to assassinate Sergei Skripal and also poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in London by a radioactive polonium-2010 in 2006, there are almost no doubts that the Kremlin is practicing this kind of attacks and uses some exotic toxic agents. The word “toxic” now has become the essential description of dirty works of the Russian authorities.

Here we just have to discuss why namely Alexei Navalny has become the target now. We can understand that in this case we can make some assumptions. As it was mentioned before, this politician and a public figure has become famous because of his organized and published anti-corruption investigations. In most cases heroes of his investigations usually are high officials of the Russian authority – starting with Prosecutor General Yury Chaika and ending with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Although Russian authorities actually never reacted to investigations carried by Alexei Navalny, they could have caused some troubles. People noticed that even in cases when somebody from authorities was made to comment a certain investigation carried out by Alexei Navalny – they tried not to mention his name. Besides, the Kremlin could see the danger in the fact that the discourse aimed against corruption might be more attractive and natural to the masses than abstract policial slogans. In other words, Alexei Navalny was becoming a too strong representative of the opposition.

Although a non-systemic Russian opposition is quite weak, disjointed and up to now not causing a more serious threat to the Kremlin, we can presume that Moscow is faired of a rise of certain strong leaders. We can remind that in 2015 Boris Nemtsov was shot dead in Moscow – a politician who could be called probably the strongest opposition leader of that time. The murderous attempt against Alexei Navalny can also be considered in this context – presuming that the Kremlin wants to clean up the political field from strong opponents. At the same time, it enables spreading fear among opposition forces and nowadays becomes one more warning to these forces.

Viktor Denisenko



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