Person of the Week: Aleksei Navalny

Week-ending 28 August 2020

On Monday, 24 August 2020, The Guardian reported that tests indicated Aleksei Navalny was the victim of a poisoning and he was being treated with atropine, the same antidote used after the 2018 nerve agent attack in Salisbury, according to the German clinic where the Kremlin critic is a patient said.

On Tuesday, 25 August 2020, The Guardian reported that the Kremlin has rejected accusations that Vladimir Putin was involved in the suspected poisoning of opposition critic Aleksei Navalny, who is in a coma in a German hospital. However, Dmitri Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said no criminal investigation would be opened in Russia unless doctors identified the specific substance with which Navalny had been poisoned, suggesting it would stonewall such a move.

On Tuesday, 25 August 2020, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) expressed deep concern over the probable poisoning of lawyer, prominent anti-corruption activist and outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin and the Russian Federation State, Alexei Navalny. The IBAHRI calls for an open, impartial and independent investigation into the situation following comment from the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, a hospital in Germany’s capital, that ‘the clinical findings indicate intoxication by a substance from the group of active substances called cholinesterase inhibitors.’ Mr Navalny remains in an induced coma.

On Wednesday, 26 August 2020, The Moscow Times reported that Kremlin-linked businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin has vowed to ruin Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is in a coma in a Berlin hospital, with a court-ordered penalty of around $1.2 million. Media reports have said he funds Wagner, a private army of mercenaries, which he denies. On Tuesday evening Prigozhin was quoted as saying he intended to enforce a court decision last year that Navalny and his associates must pay him almost 88 million rubles ($1.2 million at the current exchange rate) in damages over a video report. “I intend to strip this group of unscrupulous people of their clothes and shoes,” Prigozhin was quoted as saying after paying off the company directly named in the court case, meaning the payment would go to him directly.

On Wednesday, 26 August 2020, The Moscow Times reported that on Monday 24 August State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell’s statements urging investigations into the apparent poisoning “point to the underlying cause of what happened.” He said: “Merkel and Borrel’s subsequent statements make us look at this situation in a different light and wonder whether this is a German or another EU country’s provocation designed to accuse our country of something new,” Volodin said. Volodin said he’ll instruct the Duma’s security committee to “analyze what happened to understand whether this was an attempt by foreign states to harm the health of a Russian citizen in order to create tensions within Russia.”  

On Thursday, 27 August 2020, Russia said it does not intend to investigate the suspected poisoning of the opposition Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who is in a coma in a German hospital, saying there was no evidence of any crime, The Guardian reported. The prosecutor general’s office said it saw no basis to open an inquiry after a preliminary investigation. Vladimir Putin’s press spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said there was little reason to act since a poisonous substance had not been discovered.

On Wednesday, 26 August 2020, RFE/RL reported that when Aleksei Navalny arrived in Novosibirsk earlier this month to meet with local opposition activists, security services in the Siberian city were already tracking his moves. After he and three colleagues left on August 18 to drive 250 kilometers south to Tomsk, a group of plainclothes officers trailed him. In Tomsk itself, every detail of his two-day visit — including the location of his rented apartment and the names of people he met — was recorded. The details of Navalny’s movements were recorded and leaked to a pro-government newspaper Moskovsky komsomolets tabloid, that wrote that “Law enforcement noted no suspicious contacts that could be linked to a poisoning.” The leaks omitted the fact that despite the blanket surveillance, security agencies failed to detect the moment when the toxin may have been ingested.

On Thursday, 27 August 2020, The Moscow Times reported that police in Siberia have said they have launched a preliminary inquiry into the suspected poisoning of prominent Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny last week.

The Siberian transport police said it inspected Navalny’s hotel room, inspected security footage and scouted out his entire itinerary while he was in the city of Tomsk. They also seized more than 100 pieces of evidence and carried out more than 20 forensic examinations.

On Friday, 28 August 2020, The Guardian reported that Alexei Navalny remains in an induced coma at a Berlin hospital after a suspected poisoning but doctors say his condition is stable and his symptoms are improving.

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