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SEPTEMBER 2020

Highly Likely Strikes Back: Navalny ‘Poisoning’ And Rift Within Russian Elites

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Highly Likely Strikes Back: Navalny 'Poisoning' And Rift Within Russian Elites

Alexei Navalny

The story with the leader of the Russian neo-liberal, pro-Western opposition, Alexei Navalny, has been developing in an expected direction. The German government claimed that it believes that Navalny was likely poisoned as mainstream media outlets and the Navalny-led group of the Russian opposition have been loudly blaming the Kremlin and personally Vladimir Putin for the ‘highly likely’ poisoning.

On August 20, Navalny suddenly became “ill” during a flight from Tomsk to Moscow and was urgently hospitalized in Omsk, Russia, where he received medical help. He was put into intensive care and connected to a ventilator. Since then, he has been in a state of artificial coma in order to be connected to a ventilator.

According to people on the flight, Navalny went to the toilet and did not come out for a long while, after that they heard him call for assistance. The video makes it seem like he was under the influence of some sort of drugs or medication, but the MSM version was that Navalny was poisoned:

Omsk doctors say that they received the patient in critical conditions, in coma and saved his life. The diagnosis of poisoning was one of the first, but no chemical and toxicological substances that could be regarded as poisons or as products of the action of poisons were identified after tests. Therefore, doctors moved away from the diagnosis “poisoning”.

The hospital’s chief physician, Alexander Murakhovsky, and his deputy in the medical department, Anatoly Kalinichenko, held a press conference on August 24:

Doctors were working under an intense propaganda pressure from supporters of the Russian neo-liberal opposition, which launched a ‘poisoning hysteria’ and was directly interested in painting this picture. The pressure campaign even included direct threats to life of doctors involved. In the case of ‘poisoning’, Navalny immediately becomes the ‘sacred sacrifice’ and the ‘victim of the regime’. The deputy of the hospital’s chief physician in the medical department, Anatoly Kalinichenko, said that he received multiple physical threats to himself and his family.

As to the potential diagnosis and results of tests, doctors shared the information with Navalny’s family and it was up to them to decide if they wanted to reveal it. Surprise, surprise, no Navalny relative opted to tell media about the results of the tests. Why? The answer is simple. This would undermine the ‘Kremlin tries to hide the truth’ narrative.

According to sources of Russian daily Izvestia, when Navalny was moved to the Omsk hospital, he was in a withdrawal state complicated by a convulsive disorder. Also, Navalny was diagnosed with an alcoholic encephalopathy and a post-alcoholic hypoglycemia. Earlier, it was revealed that traces of alcohol and caffeine were found in the oppositionist’s analyzes.

The Navalny relatives insisted that Navaly should be relocated to a foreign hospital. This was allowed after the patient’s life was saved and the situation stabilized.

On August 22, the face of the Russian neo-liberal and pro-Western opposition was moved to Germany, to the “Charite” hospital. Here, the new round of the ‘highly likely’ blame game started.

Steffen Seibert, the spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said that Navalny was ‘likely’ poisoned.

“We’re dealing with a patient who fairly likely was poisoned,” Seibert told reporters.

The German official called for a “full and transparent” investigation into the circumstances of Navalny’s hospitalization. Seibert’s comments align with claims from Navalny’s aides, who say he was poisoned with a cup of tea at an airport cafe.

After this, the Charite hospital issued a statement saying that its tests indicate that Navalny was likely poisoned with a substance from the “cholinesterase inhibitor” group.

“Since his admission at the weekend, Alexei Navalny has been receiving treatment at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. The patient is being treated in intensive care and remains in a medically induced coma. While his condition is serious, it is not currently life-threatening.

Following his admission, Mr. Navalny underwent extensive examination by a team of Charité physicians. Clinical findings indicate poisoning with a substance from the group of cholinesterase inhibitors. The specific substance involved remains unknown, and a further series of comprehensive testing has been initiated. The effect of the poison – namely, the inhibition of cholinesterase in the body – was confirmed by multiple tests in independent laboratories.

As a result of this diagnosis, the patient is now being treated with the antidote atropine. Alexei Navalny’s prognosis remains unclear; the possibility of long-term effects, particularly those affecting the nervous system, cannot be excluded.

The treating physicians remain in constant contact with Mr. Navalny’s wife. After close consultation with the patient’s wife, Charité is reassured that the decision to make details of the patient’s condition public would be in accordance with his wishes,” the statement reads.

As it was expected, immediately after the moving of the opposition figure outside Russia, to the area where Germany and its ‘democratic partners’ have full control over his fate and results of the ‘investigation’,  the poisoning version became the main one.

If high-skilled Omsk doctors did not make all needed tests and collected the needed data, it was likely that the poisoning of Navalny would be unconditionally declared as the ‘fact’. Now, German authorities are forced to limit their statements to ‘highly-likely’ speculations. This does not mean that as the situation develops, they will not move to more direct accusations against the Kremlin.

Navalny was moved to Germany despite the fact that it was apparent that this will distract the real situation. Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov personally announced that the government is ready to assist the evacuation of Navalny to a foreign hospital if it’s needed.

The air travel between Russia and Germany is mostly suspended due to coronavirus limitations. The flight to Germany was organized by the Berlin-based Cinema for Peace Foundation. The flight was paid by businessman Boris Zimin. Boris Zimin is the son of Dmitry Zimin – the founder of VimpelCom (Beeline telecommunications brand).

PJSC VimpelCom is the third-largest wireless and second-largest telecom operator in Russia. It is wholly owned by VEON Ltd. through which it is linked to Mikhail Fridman, Russian Western-linked business magnate. Fridman’s Alfa Group Consortium is among the main shareholders of VEON Ltd.

These persons and entities represent the Russian influence group linked to the global finance. The very same group has links and support work of think tanks affiliated with the Higher School of Economics, the center of the Alma Mater of the liberal economic block of the Russian government. Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobanin and Chairwoman of the Bank of Russia Elvira Nabiullina also could be considered a part of the global finance in Russia.

In Russian media, this network of Western-linked persons, organizations, influence groups and top officials is often described as the ‘liberal tower’ of the Kremlin. Thus, despite the image of the opposition figure, Navalny receives support from the highest levels of the Russian governance and business systems.

Navalny’s freedom of movements and trips to foreign countries have never been de-facto limited despite his Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) being under the investigation for money laundering. The estimated number of funds investigated under the criminal case is 75.5 million RUB (over 1,000,000 USD). Earlier, Navalny was convinced to a five years suspended sentence for embezzlement for the misappropriating about 16 million RUB (then about 500,000 USD) worth of lumber from a state-owned company in 2009, while he was acting as an adviser to Kirov’s governor Nikita Belykh. In another corruption case, Alexei Navalny was given 3.5 years of suspended sentence, and his brother Oleg Navalny was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison under the fraudulence case. These facts did not stop Navalny from continuing his career of the ‘democratic politician’ and the ‘fighter against corruption’ promoted and protected by the liberal faction of the Russian elites.

The situation with Navalny’s supposed ‘poisoning’ and the reaction of the Russian elites to the case, including the decision to move Navalny to Germany look at least strange. In fact, it may indicate the deepening crisis within the Russian elites and the weakening of the governance system, including the security cabinet and even Putin’s circle. A part of the elites has been playing into the hands of forces seeking to destabilize the country. These actions become especially dangerous amid reports about the possible strengthening of the global economic crisis and the second wave of coronavirus this autumn.

In this situation, Navlny, who will likely remain outside Russia in the nearest future, becomes a powerful propaganda symbol that will be for sure used by the opponents of Moscow on the international secene. At the same time, the ‘poisoning’ case will be employed as a part of the wider attempts to destabilize Russia in 2020-2021.

If we imagine that efforts of foreign actors to undermine the stability in Russia succeed and the internal situation in the country deteriorats, it would be possible to also expect the ‘victorious’ returning of Navalny to Russia. In this case, the hero of the ‘anti-Putin rebellion’ will likely be presented as the leader of the ‘democratic forces’ that should take power (and destroy Russia from inside) after the fall of the ‘corrupt Putin regime’.

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