Person of the Week: Aleksei Navalny

Week-ending 11 September 2020

On Monday, 7 September 2020, The Guardian reported that Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny had been taken out of an induced coma and was responding to speech, according to the Germany hospital treating him. The Charité hospital in Berlin, which has been treating Navalny since 22 August, said his condition was improving and that he was also being weaned off mechanical ventilation. Navalny fell ill on a flight last month and was treated in a Siberian hospital before being evacuated to Berlin.

On Monday, 7 September 2020, RFE/RL reported that the wife of opposition politician Aleksei Navalny, who is currently in a medically induced coma in Berlin after being diagnosed with poisoning, has slammed a leading Russian physician as being little more than a stooge for President Vladimir Putin after he suggested creating a joint German-Russian expert group to assess the state of her husband’s health. Yulia Navalnaya wrote on Instagram on September 6 that medical institutions in Russia consider patients their “property,” falsifying information they make public via the media while “deceiving relatives, not letting them see the patient and inventing rules at their own discretion, literally turning the hospital into an analogue of a Russian prison.”

On Tuesday, 8 September 2020, RFE/RL reported that two attackers threw a glass jar with an unknown chemical liquid into an office housing the independent political coalition supported by opposition politician Aleksei Navalny’s team in Russia’s third-largest city, Novosibirsk. The jar broke and the room, filled with dozens of people on September 8, was quickly filled with a sharp, acidic smell. The room was cleared immediately, but two people felt sick and an ambulance was called, Yelena Noskovets, a member of Navalny’s team in the city, told RFE/RL and Current Time. Noskovets added that the attack came as Navalny’s group was giving a lecture to staff and volunteers on how to monitor general elections scheduled for September 13.

On Thursday, 10 September 2020, The Moscow Times reported that unidentified attackers beat up an activist campaigning for hospitalized Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in the Urals city of Chelyabinsk, his colleagues said Thursday. Alexei Baraboshkin, the local coordinator for Navalny, was “assaulted by unknown attackers” late Wednesday after receiving threats for several weeks, his campaign office wrote on Telegram.

On Tuesday, 8 September 2020, welcoming the news that Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny has emerged from his coma in a Berlin hospital, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet urged the Government of the Russian Federation to carry out, or fully cooperate with, a thorough, transparent, independent and impartial investigation, after German specialists said they have “unequivocal proof” that he was poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent. “The number of cases of poisoning, or other forms of targeted assassination, of current or former Russian citizens, either within Russia itself or on foreign soil, over the past two decades is profoundly disturbing,” Bachelet said. “And the failure in many cases to hold perpetrators accountable and provide justice for the victims or their families, is also deeply regrettable and hard to explain or justify.” The High Commissioner noted that nerve agents and radioactive isotopes such as Novichok and Polonium-210 are sophisticated substances that are extremely hard to source. “This raises numerous questions,” she said. “Why use substances like these? Who is using them? How did they acquire them?” She also noted that prior to his reported poisoning, Alexei Navalny had been repeatedly harassed, arrested and assaulted, either by the authorities or by unknown assailants.

On Wednesday, 9 September 2020, Meduza reported that Alexey Navalny was poisoned with a new type of Novichok nerve agent, which is more dangerous than previously known variations, according to the German weekly Die Zeit, citing an anonymous source. According to Die Zeit, Navalny was supposed to die on the airplane. The opposition figure is alive thanks to the pilot, who decided to make an emergency landing immediately, and the doctors who quickly treated him with atropine — an antidote used to treat some types of nerve agent and pesticide poisoning.

On Wednesday, 9 September 2020, RAPSI reported that Moscow’s Liublinsky district court has suspended a 230,000-ruble ($3,300) claim filed by blogger Alexey Zhirukhin against Alexey Navalny over allegedly illegal photo use, RAPSI has learnt from the court’s press service. The court has put a stay on the proceedings because of Navalny’s illness. On August 20, a plane departed from Tomsk to Moscow with Navalny onboard but urgently landed in Omsk after the blogger became heartily sick. He was taken to a hospital in coma. Later, he was transported to Berlin. Russian medics said no poison was found in the blogger’s body. The plaintiff demands 180,000 rubles for violation of his exclusive rights and 50,000 rubles for moral harm.

On Thursday, 10 September 2020, RAPSI reported that Moscow City Court will hear an appeal filed by lawyer Vyacheslav Gimadi against a lower court’s ruling over alleged inaction of investigator as to incident with Alexey Navalny on September 28, the court’s press service has told RAPSI. On September 4, the Basmanny District Court of Moscow found no act of omission of Russia’s Investigative Committee failing to open a criminal case over an incident involving Alexey Navalny. Lawyers for Navalny’s foundation claimed it had been a while since they had notified investigators of the incident. 

On Friday, 11 September 2020, RFE/RL reported that Russia’s Interior Ministry wants to question opposition politician Aleksei Navalny in Berlin, where he is being treated after German doctors reported “unequivocal evidence” that he was poisoned with the military-grade nerve agent Novichok, contradicting their Russian counterparts who said they had found no trace of poison. The ministry’s transportation police directorate branch in Siberia said on September 11 that with Navalny coming out of a medically induced coma earlier this week, it is preparing a request that German authorities allow its investigators to take part in questioning the 44-year-old Kremlin critic and anti-corruption campaigner. A German government spokesman said Berlin had yet to receive an official request from Moscow on the issue.

On Friday, 11 September 2020, Meduza reported that Maria Pevchikh was among the group of six people who accompanied opposition figure and anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny on the trip to Siberia that ended with his poisoning. Now, the Transit Police Department for Russia’s Siberian Federal District is claiming that Maria Pevchikh — or as they’ve mistakenly called her, “Marina” Pevchikh — is refusing to testify. The department is carrying out a preliminary inquiry into Navalny’s hospitalization in Omsk (Russian police officials have yet to open an actual case over the attack on Navalny). 

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