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December 29, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 9110

After Official Narratives On Navalny Poisoning Are Blown Out Of The Water, Official Russia Remains Nonchalant, As It Knows That The International And Domestic Penalty Will Be Minimal

December 29, 2020
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 9110

Since August 20, 2020, when Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny fell deathly ill on a plane ride from Tomsk, Siberia, to Moscow necessitating an emergency landing in Omsk to rush him to a hospital there have been dueling versions of the events. Navalny and his supporters claimed that the Putin regime had sought to poison him. Russian state doctors denied accusations of poisoning and countered with versions of metabolic disorders, pancreatic problems; regime surrogates insinuated that it was an attention grabbing stunt by a failed politician.[1] The unconscious Navalny was transferred to Berlin's Charité on August 22 at his wife's insistence where he emerged from a coma, but the controversy continued.

Now the verdict is very conclusive. On December 14 , 2020, CNN published the results of a joint investigation with the Bellingcat group, the same organization that had found concrete evidence of Russia's complicity in the 2014 downing of a Malaysian airline and had identified the Russian agents involved in the Skripal case in England. Their findings were supplemented by information "The Insider" another private intelligence group. According to the report Russia's FSB, the successor to the USSR's KGB ,had an elite toxins squad in communication with the institute that manufactured the nerve agent, tailing Navalny. The report named the members of the squad tailing Navalny in Siberia, and who had carried out the attempted poisoning.[2] The prestigious medical magazine The Lancet published an article by the treating physicians at the Berlin hospital, who concluded inter alia: the German Government announced that a laboratory of the German armed forces designated by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had identified an organophosphorus nerve agent from the novichok group in blood samples collected immediately after the patient's admission to Charité, a finding that was subsequently confirmed by the OPCW.[3]

The State Department, based on the two developments, issued a tough statement blaming the Russian Security Service for Navalny's poisoning, something it had been holding back on. A spokesperson for the department commented:

"The United States believes that officers from the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) used a Novichok nerve agent to poison Mr. Navalny. There is no plausible explanation for Mr. Navalny's poisoning other than Russian government involvement and responsibility... "Of course, President Putin and the Russian government would have us believe otherwise....

"Russia has suggested numerous, often contradictory, conspiracy theories," the spokesperson said. "Let's be clear -- these types of conspiracy theories are nothing more than a means to deflect attention from the serious questions before the Russian government, which it has yet to answer."[4]

Navalny was jubilant. On his Youtube channel, he, based on the CNN-Bellingcat investigation, stated: “The case has been solved. I know all the persons, who tried to kill me,” he published photographs of eight people he believed to be FSB officers and who, according to his data, participated in the attempted murder.[5] Navalny also brandished the Lancet article and mocked the Russian physicians, who denied that he had been poisoned. In an article for Echo of Moscow titled "The Evidence of Poisoning, Which Putin Is Demanding to See, Is Now Published In The Lancet - the World’s Leading Medical Journal.

"I am afraid that now even the unshakable authority of “doctor” Murakhovsky (the former chief physician of the Omsk emergency hospital, and now the Minister of Health of the Omsk Region) will not suffice.

"Of course, [Russian] TV will soon tell us: “how can one compare the pitiful Lancet magazine (which is the world's main scientific medical journal world) and the great 'luminaries' Murakhovsky and Sabaev with their diagnosis of [bad] 'metabolism'.

"However, today on the website of the “Charite” Hospital, where I was treated for a month a press release was published. It is called “The Eighth and Final Statement on the Navalny Case.”

"The statement is short: the team of doctors who treated Navalny published data of their work in the “Lancet” magazine.

"The article is signed by 14 professors of medicine, and it is called “Novichok nerve agent poisoning...

"Well, and most importantly - Vladimir Putin will now feel a bit better. At every press conference, he clutched his hands and exclaimed: 'when will the Germans provide us with the data'?

"It is unclear what data is he talking about: the same blood was taken for analysis both in Omsk and in Berlin.

"But it doesn't matter now. The medical data is published and available worldwide."[6] Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov announced that the authorities would not refer the article to Russian physicians, nor would the article spark a criminal investigation. [7]

Navalny was not through, and posing as a fictitious assistant to Nikolai Patrushev, Secretary of the Russian Federation's Security Council and a former Director of the FSB, he placed a call to Konstantin Borisovich Kudryavtsev, one of the outed agents to 'debrief' him on the failed attempt to poison Navalny. Kudryavtsev, believing he was addressing a superior, described details of the attempted assassination including his role of smearing the chemical agent on Navalny's undershorts and his efforts in cleaning up the evidence.[8]


From left: Putin, Kudryavstev and Navalny. Banner reads: "I called my own murderer. He confessed." (Source: Navalny.com)

Russia's President Vladimir Putin reacted calmly. The exposure of the FSB agents, offered proof positive that Navalny enjoyed the backing of foreign intelligence services, and therefore his surveillance was totally in order. "With regard to the patient of a Berlin clinic [Navalny]. I have already mentioned it many times, and can repeat only certain things. Mr Peskov told me just yesterday about the latest speculations in this regard concerning our special service officers’ data and so on. Listen, we are perfectly aware of what this is all about. It is about legalization the first time around and now. This is not about an investigation. This is about legalizing the materials from the US special services.

"Do you really think we are unaware of the fact that they are tracking locations? Our special services understand this well and are aware of it. Officers of the FSB and other special services are aware of it and use telephones whenever they believe they should not be hiding their location, etc. But if this is so – and rest assured that this is so – it means that this patient of a Berlin clinic has the support of the special services, those of the United States in this particular case. And if this is the case, then it gets interesting and the special services should, of course, be looking after him. However, this does not mean at all that he must be poisoned. Who cares about him? If they really wanted to, they would have, most likely, carried it through. His wife addressed me, and I gave the green light to have him treated in Germany that very second."[9]

The cavalier attitude adopted by Putin can be explained by an appraisal that his refusal to take action on the attempted assassination will incur a small and tolerable penalty. Below are excerpts from two articles. The first, an interview in Rosbalt, attempts to predict possible international repercussions, while the second in Echo of Moscow assesses the impact of the Navalny affair on Russian domestic opinion.  The common denominator of both articles is that Putin is correct in his appraisal – It will be business as usual.

Below are the two articles:

Political Scientist Okara: The Environment Around The Investigation Of Navalny's Poisoning Shows A Delicate Balance Between Political Values and Interests 

Political scientist Andrei Okara, director of the Center for Eastern European Studies, discussed with his Rosbalt interviewer Aleksander Zhelenin, how the new accusations could affect Russia’s international position.

In your opinion, what will the West do after the publication of the specific names and photographs of Navalny’s poisoners? Should we expect the latest harsh statements, sanctions, relations freezes, or will the collective West, as always, make noise and then return to search for opportunities to continue “constructive cooperation” with Moscow?

— Apparently, neither of these scenarios will materialize, but instead something in between will happen. That is, the relationship will deteriorate. Biden has already said that Russia is America’s main adversary, and this all fits well with the American vision of world politics.

Could [the publication] of these new investigations be linked to tomorrow’s Putin's address at the traditional big press conference? Will they affect the construction of the “Nord Stream 2” gas pipeline, the restart of whose construction has already been announced?

— [It is] a complicated question. After the publications of the “Insider” and “Bellingcat” investigations, Klaus Ernst, head of the German Bundestag Committee on Economics and Energy, said that the construction of the gas pipeline will be completed, despite the American sanctions against it. While in the United States one president is already going and the other has not yet arrived., America has loosened its “stranglehold” on “Nord Stream”. Germany believes that it is necessary to wrap things up quickly.

An opinion exists among conspiracy theory fans that one reason why this investigation has appeared precisely now was the upcoming Putin’s speech. Another opinion is that this is an attempt to create a negative background around the construction of “Nord Stream 2” at the very moment when parties involved realized that they had a window of opportunity to complete the construction until January 20 (the day the new US President is inaugurated).

Will the West be able to marginalize Russia after this exposures?

— An environment around the investigation of Navalny’s poisoning shows a delicate balance between political values and interests. Taking into account democratic values, the West, probably, should have claimed that the Kremlin wants to poison the whole world with “Novichok” agent, blow the world up with its missiles, and therefore, a new “iron curtain” is need, as the saying goes “we want a divorce and will take maiden name”.

The politics of interests dictates that no matter what the people in the Kremlin do, there is nothing that can be done, and business comes first. So, let’s trade and ignore the political aspects of this regime: it was terrible and will be such.

Well, we all remember the case of the Skripal poisoning in Britain. Back then there was plenty of evidence, however nothing happened ...

—… Yes, nothing happened. Indeed, the cases of Skripals, Navalny poisonings, the Malaysian Boeing shot down over Donbass in 2014 - all these events characterize the existing relationship in Western politics between the value-based approach and the pragmatic one.

So far, we see that in all these cases pragmatic interests have won ...

— I would say that the Western approach to Russia is at any rate proportionally 25% to 75% in favor of pragmatic interests. This is the reality. Such are the current actors in world politics.

I do not think that after the publications of “Insider” and “Bellingcat's” investigations about the poisoning of Navalny, something will fundamentally change in this ratio. Probably, the West will say more unpleasant words about Moscow, introduce more sanctions, but nothing that can radically affect the Russian economy and affect its political regime.

The interdependence of states today is on an absolutely different level. Such interdependence is much greater than in the era of the Soviet Union. Doing something in relation to one country, especially one as large as Russia, will boomerang and produce negative consequences.

For example, by imposing sanctions on the Russian economy, Europe is also damaging its own producers. This is how the global nature of the modern world manifests itself - by punishing someone, you punish yourself. Therefore, everyone is now looking for that optimal point, when one can punish another state with minimal damage to oneself."[10]


Andrei Okara (Source: Bolshoyvopros.ru)

Distinguished Economist Inozemtsev: The Duel Between Navalny And Putin Has Entered A Decisive Phase

The distinguished economist Vladislav Inozemtsev dismissed expectations that the exposure of the assassination plot would damage the regime domestically. In an article titled Culture of Lies and the Corruption of Backwardness claimed that the entire system is rooted in lies, so another lie is not earthshaking.

"The total lie is the core of the domestic bureaucracy's problems, which are today already visible to the naked eye. 

"A standard of bureaucratic system behavior is set when the president at a press conference does not even try to present realistic versions of what has happened; when he tries to present completely false 'facts' about the Soviet past; when the medical' statistics (which has nothing to do with reality) are readily cited and when the governors' reports on economic successes of the territories entrusted to them are take on face value.

"We often see that in the courts, the testimony of security officials is perceived as true, even when they contradict documents or video materials (this is also a characteristic feature of Putin’s system). A situation is created, in which a culture of lies was formed within the bureaucratic class, officially accepted as truth, and the authorities are incapable of controlling their own 'system cogs'."

Putin is part of this culture. "In 2014, we witnessed for the first time how the president openly lied to the press and foreign leaders regarding the participation of the Russian military in the seizure of Crimean Peninsula.

"However, then he admitted this fact with a certain bravado, stressing that this was the trick of a former special service agent, who wanted to mislead the enemy, and at that moment it was impossible to do otherwise. In this case, everyone was happy to be deceived: Russians, possessed by a patriotic impulse; Crimeans who escaped bloodshed; and even Western leaders who wanted to quickly forget about the Budapest Memorandum [guaranteeing Ukraine's territorial integrity in exchange for Ukraine's foregoing nuclear weapons] and their obligations to Ukraine.

"Almost seven years have passed since, and lies have finally become the norm: if earlier it was possible mainly at “grassroots” level and was spontaneous, now it comes from “above” and is almost elevated into a strength. virtue. And while this is the case, there is no need to talk about the effective functioning of the state apparatus. It makes no sense to demand honesty and efficiency from subordinates if everyone gets away with lying, and dealing with deception means admitting a disastrous state of affairs at all directions of state policy."

Inozemtsev is highly pessimistic about the popular reaction in Russia, even though the regime is treating its citizens like serfs: "When two years ago I published the book 'A Backward Country', I saw the existing trend, but not its scale. Russia today is ruled not by people who hate the West or are motivated by traditional values. It is ruled by those, who understand sovereignty the way it was interpreted during the [1815] Congress of Vienna; who consider their citizens to be serfs, inventing new taxes and fees; who create digital systems, but at the same time believe that they themselves will be untraceable, and no one will know about their affairs. These are people of the 19th century, who unexpectedly gained access to 21st century technologies. And precisely because of that they have long been unable to realize how quickly their power is being eroded.

"The duel between Navalny and Putin has entered a decisive phase. The system received a kick of unprecedented force, and there is no doubt that it will receive many more of them. However, this does not mean that the Kremlin has been defeated, or even more that it will admit defeat. Likely it will be the opposite. in the very near future we will see intensified repression against dissidents; new laws restricting everything and everyone; convictions for significant political cases; and (I would like to be mistaken) further attempts to assassinate those who tweak the Russian special services so painfully.

"So, the most important thing will be how the majority of the Russian population will react, whether it will protest against the final destruction of a space for freedom and security in the country or will it keep silent once again, vote in the 2021 and 2024 elections just as obediently as i during the 2018 presidential elections or the 2020 [constitutional] referendum.

"I will appear the pessimist and suggest that under conditions of growing apathy, proliferating personal problems and the remaining opportunity to leave the country, Russians will continue to seek individual solutions to systemic contradictions instead of rising to fight the system. The Russian government, in my opinion, inherited an ideal nation that it will successfully exploit for a long time."[11]


Book jacket of Inozemtsev's book: A Backward Country: Russia in a Nineteenth Century World (Source: Mybook.ru)

 

[1] Interfax.ru, December 24, 2020.

[2] Cnn.com, December 15, 2020.

[3] The Lancet.com, December 22, 2020

[4] Cnn.com December 23, 2020

[5] Rosbalt.ru, December 16, 2020.

[6] Echo.msk.ru, December 23, 2020.

[7] Echo.msk.ru, December 25, 2020.

[8] For an English transcript see: Bellingcat.com, December 21, 2020. For the Russian with English subtitles see: Navalny.com, December 21, 2020.

[9] Kremlin.ru, December 17,2020.

[10] Rosbalt.ru, December 16, 2020.

[11] Echo.msk.ru, December 23, 2020.

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