On the alleged poisoning of Alexei Navalny

Who is this man, and why is such a fuss being made about him?

Proletarian writers

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Proletarian writers

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Western media outlets are awash with stories of how their darling Russian opposition activist, Alexei Navalny, has reportedly been poisoned.

While on a flight from the Russian city of Tomsk to Moscow in late August, Alexei Navalny suddenly fell ill. The flight made an emergency landing in the city of Omsk, and he was rushed to the hospital and placed in a medically induced coma.

“Within 16 minutes of receiving the signal from the plane, the ambulance arrived at the airport. Seventeen minutes after the patient was carried out on a stretcher, he was taken to the medical centre of the emergency hospital in Omsk. For 44 hours, doctors fought for his life. These are facts that cannot be denied,” an open letter from the doctors working in the hospital noted.

For their work, the doctors received no praise from the foreign media, only scorn. “It got to the point that the Omsk doctors were compared with the heroes of Moliere’s comedies, for whom leeches and bloodletting were the main methods of treatment,” read the letter.

“People without medical education make diagnoses, talk about treatment and manipulate information. At the same time, none of them witnessed his condition,” the letter quite correctly pointed out. “Instead, we see a phenomenon known as ‘political diagnosis’, which has nothing to do with medicine.” (Siberian doctors who treated Moscow protest leader Navalny issue open letter addressing critics of their efforts to save activist, RT, 26 August 2020)

Who is Navalny?

Alexei Navalny is a Russian ‘anti-corruption activist’, most famous on blogging website LiveJournal and on YouTube, who, back in the real world, occupies an insignificant place in Russia’s political opposition. He is leader of the Russia of the Future party (originally the Progress party), which enjoys a grand total of zero seats in the both the Duma and regional parliaments. (Wikipedia)

According to a study conducted by the Levada Centre (an NGO viewed by the Russian ministry of justice as an organisation that performs the functions of a foreign agent – ie, an NGO that will be aligned with such interests as Navalny’s) in 2017, only half of their sample actually knew who Navalny was.

Of that figure, 14 percent said they would vote for him in presidential elections, whereas 72 percent affirmed they would not. Notably, 28 percent believed he acted in the interests of the west as opposed to those of Russia.

Of all correspondents, which included those who had no idea who the man was, a mere 9 percent held a favourable view of him. (Protests on 26 March and Navalny, Levada Centre, 4 June 2017)

By comparison, Russia’s president, Valdimir Putin, enjoyed a popularity rating of 82 percent during the same year. (Vladimir Putin’s approval rating in Russia from March 2000 to March 2020, Statista)

Thus, by all accounts, Navalny is a political gnome. A minor annoyance to be sure, but not one that would be able to do any harm without backing from abroad.

Novichok, definitely novichok!

The story, originally peddled by Navalny’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh and then eagerly taken up by pundits working for the imperialist media, goes that his tea was poisoned by persons unknown while waiting in the airport at Tomsk.

Naturally, the western media trumpeted this narrative without question, and quickly decided that a would-be assassin had been sent by the Kremlin to take down this dangerous rival.

Navalny spent three days, inclusive of those on which he arrived and was removed, in the care of doctors at the hospital in Omsk before being airlifted to Berlin’s Charite hospital courtesy of the German NGO Cinema for Peace, which has had the dubious honour of working with such people as Bill and Hillary Clinton, Mikhail Gorbachev and a host of Hollywood celebrities. The organisation would have moved him sooner, were it not for the attending doctors refusing to let him go on medical grounds.

After a couple days in Berlin, the attending doctors released a statement claiming: “Clinical findings indicate poisoning with a substance from the group of cholinesterase inhibitors. The specific substance involved remains unknown,” a claim that was in direct contradiction to the results of blood tests carried out by doctors in Omsk, which were endorsed by the region’s top toxicologist Alexander Sabayev.

According to Sabayev: “When Alexei Navalny was admitted to the in-patient clinic, he was examined for a wide range of narcotics, synthetic substances, psychedelic drugs and medical substances, including cholinesterase inhibitors. The result was negative.” Furthermore, “He did not have a clinical picture, specific for poisoning with substances from the group of cholinesterase inhibitors.” (‘We found no cholinesterase inhibitors in Navalny’s blood’: Omsk’s chief toxicologist comments on statement from Berlin’s Charite, RT, 24 August 2020)

Moscow, despite repeated requests, has not been granted a copy of the data that allegedly confirms the poisoning.

Of course, our western media, concerned as they are with facts and unbiased reporting, outright dismissed the results of the bloodwork carried out on Russian soil. Instead, they immediately latched on to the German version, which they found much more in keeping with their agenda of demonising Russia at every opportunity.

A sample was sent thence to a specialist military laboratory, which found that – would you believe it – novichok, that terrible ‘military-grade’ nerve agent developed by the dreaded Soviet Union, was the culprit! Much as in the case of the Skripals (whose whereabouts is still a mystery two years on), this ‘deadly nerve agent’ inexplicably failed once again to do the job.

Following the announcement, spokespersons for the imperialists were falling over themselves to condemn Russia.

German chancellor Angela Merkel first stepped up, saying that she was “appalled” by the supposed attack, claiming: “It is now certain (!) that Alexei Navalny was the victim of a crime – he was supposed to be silenced,” and adding that this “crime … was directed against all the basic values and the fundamental rights that we espouse (!)”. (Alexei Navalny poisoned with nerve agent novichok, says Germany by Guy Chazan and Max Seddon, Financial Times, 2 September 2020)

Merkel’s sentiment was echoed by the imperialist powers, who then banded together in the warmongering Nato alliance to convene a meeting that called for an “impartial international investigation” into the supposed poisoning.

Who is to lead this most impartial investigation, you ask? Why, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) of course! We all know very well in just whose interests this notoriously ‘impartial’ body acts, what with its suppression of evidence regarding the fictitious chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria, and support for the imperialists’ narrative that the alleged attack had been ordered by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

Following the meeting, Nato spokesman Piers Cazalet said, with never a hint of irony: “The use of such a weapon is horrific. Nato allies are united in condemning this attack. It shows a total disrespect for human life. Time and again we have seen critics of the Putin regime attacked and threatened. Some have been killed.” (Russia asked to come clean on novichok after Navalny poisoning by Luke Harding and Philip Oltermann, The Guardian, 4 September 2020)

There are few things more grotesque than lectures from genocidal Nato gangsters about respect for human life.

For its part, the Russian foreign ministry released a statement, which, among other matters, commented on the alleged poisoning. Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov noted that the tale of Navalny’s ‘poisoning’ was taken up with “suspicious haste” by those in Washington and Brussels, and drew comparison with the incidents involving the Skripals in 2018 and Litvinenko in 2006, both of which had been immediately pinned on Moscow.

Mr Lavrov also condemned the accusations of a cover-up levelled against Omsk’s doctors. “We consider deeply offensive the accusations of ‘covering up the truth’, directed from some western capitals to the doctors in Omsk, who immediately rendered highly professional aid” to Navalny, the ministry noted. (Poisoning protest leader Navalny ‘would not benefit’ Moscow, says Russian foreign ministry, labels western allegations ‘offensive’, RT, 25 August 2020)

Such is a relatively brief account of the events. But none of this large talk and fanfare touches on the real issue at hand: the imminent completion of the Nord Stream 2 project.

Nord Stream 2

Nord Stream 2, a gas pipeline linking Russia with the countries of Europe via Germany, being led by Gazprom, a Russian company with 50 percent of its shares controlled by the government, is in the final stages of completion. It is a project that the USA detests utterly, as it allows countries in the European Union to buy gas much more cheaply from Russia than it would from US suppliers.

It is against this backdrop that the whole sorry affair must be viewed and analysed.

The US has fought tooth and nail against the pipeline throughout the course of its planning and construction, yet never has it succeeded in stopping the project. The imperialist US has continued throughout to threaten European companies with sanctions – its second favourite bargaining chip after bombing – should they be involved in helping to complete the pipeline.

“It’s a clear warning to companies that aiding and abetting Russia’s malign influence projects will not be tolerated,” bellowed US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo. “Get out now, or risk the consequences.”

Some two years ago, the US congress passed the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act in an attempt to frustrate the project, although at that time the sanctions were not to apply to companies that had supplied loans or made investments before the act had been signed into law. War secretary Pompeo recently made clear that those protections would be removed and the measures applied retrospectively. (US steps up threats over Nord Stream 2 pipeline by Demetri Sevastopulo, Henry Foy and David Sheppard, Financial Times, 15 July 2020)

Yet it all came to nought, beyond the souring of relations between Washington and Brussels. The options being considered by the US are becoming all the more drastic as the clock ticks down and its desperation increases.

The future of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is, at time of writing, uncertain, as conflicting reports have been circulating. One minute, German foreign minister Heiko Maas, taking a hard-line approach to Russia, was warning that the pipeline could be cancelled, while the next, government spokesperson Steffen Seibert was weighing in to say that it was “too early” for a definitive response to whether or not the project will reach an abrupt end, adding that Germany was “waiting for answers” from Russia as to what happened. (German government says it’s ‘too early’ to discuss abandoning Nord Stream 2 pipeline over Navalny case as Kremlin sees ‘no risks’, RT, 7 September 2020)

“If in the coming days Russia does not help clarify what happened,” declared Maas, “we will be compelled to discuss a response with our allies.” But since Russia has already cooperated fully with investigations, it is unclear what more it can reasonably be expected to do.

“I hope … that the Russians do not force us to change our position on Nord Stream,” continued Maas, who has also been quoted as saying that there are “several indications” that Russia is to blame. (Navalny poisoning: Germany raises pressure on Russia with sanctions talk, The Guardian, 6 September 2020)

German chancellor Angela Merkel is under increasing pressure from her domestic opposition, the German Green party, which is at present polling second to Merkel’s Christian Democrats, as well as from allies abroad, to end support for the pipeline.

“This openly attempted murder through the Kremlin’s mafia-like structures should not just worry us, but needs to have real consequences,” pronounced Katrin Göring-Eckardt, co-chair of the Green party in the Bundestag. “Nord Stream 2 is no longer something we can jointly pursue with Russia.” (Merkel pressured to end Nord Stream 2 support after Navalny poisoning by Philip Oltermann and Luke Harding, The Guardian, 3 September 2020)

Cui bono?

With this in mind, why, oh why, would the Russians decide that now, at this critical juncture, was the time to do away with an insignificant nobody such as Navalny? Why would a military-grade nerve agent be used – in an airport, of all places – to bump off a single individual?

What on earth do they have to gain?

The simple conclusion is that they wouldn’t, and in all likelihood, didn’t. There is absolutely nothing to gain. It is entirely possible, as the doctors who originally treated him in Omsk suggested, that Nalvany fell ill as a result of his own actions or dietary habits.

If he really was poisoned, it is infinitely more likely that the order came from Washington than from Moscow – a possibility that has not escaped Russia’s foreign intelligence agency, whose head, Sergey Naryshkin, noted: “Moscow could not exclude that western special forces were behind the poisoning.” (Russian spy chief says western provocation cannot be ruled out in Navalny case – RIA, Reuters, 3 September 2020)

Looking at the matter objectively, who does Navalny’s death benefit?

The Russian government would be rid of an inconsequential opposition figure lacking any sort of popular support. The US government, on the other hand, has the chance to throw a military-grade spanner in the works of the what will be a very profitable venture for Russia and rupture the progress of improving relations between the EU and the Russian state.

Clearly, it is much more in the interests of the US to have Navalny poisoned than it is in those of Russia. The life and death of such pawns in the US’s drive for power is just all part of the game to the imperialists, and ultimately matter little so long as the US can score a victory.