Person of the Week: Aleksei Navalny

Week-ending 18 September 2020

Aleksei Navalny

On Monday, 14 September 2020, The Guardian reported that the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been taken off a ventilator and is able to leave his bed for short periods of time, German doctors who have been treating him for novichok poisoning have said. In a significant update, the Charité hospital in Berlin said Navalny’s condition “continues to improve” and hinted that he was able to talk. It said latest news of his health was made public after consultation with Navalny and his wife. German medics have cautioned it is too early to say whether Navalny will make a full recovery. But the fact that he is out of a medically induced coma and able to walk a little is the most positive sign to date.

On Monday, 14 September 2020, The Guardian reported that allies of poisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny have said they have secured city council seats in Siberia as independent monitors condemned a reported “stream” of voting irregularities in regional polls. In several dozen of the country’s 85 regions, Russians voted for regional governors and lawmakers in regional and city legislatures as well as in several by-elections for national MPs. The polls came a year ahead of parliamentary elections and are seen as a test for the Kremlin, as the ruling party faces sinking popularity and simmering public anger over economic woes. In an effort to fight Vladimir Putin’s electoral machine, Navalny and his team have urged Russians to vote tactically by backing the strongest candidates against the ruling party United Russia.

On Tuesday, 15 September 2020, The Guardian reported the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has said he is now able to breathe without any external support, in his first public statement since he was poisoned last month. Navalny, who German authorities said was poisoned with the nerve agent novichok, posted a photograph on Instagram of himself sitting up in a hospital bed surrounded by his wife and their two children.

On Tuesday, 15 September 2020, The Moscow Times reported that the head of Russia’s foreign intelligence service said Tuesday opposition leader Alexei Navalny showed no signs of poisoning before he was flown to Berlin for treatment and that Moscow had “questions” for Germany. The 44-year-old lawyer and outspoken Kremlin critic last month fell severely ill on a flight from the Siberian city of Tomsk to Moscow after a trip to support opposition candidates in local elections. “It is a fact that the moment Alexei Navalny left Russian territory there were no toxins in his system,” Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service Director Sergei Naryshkin said. “Therefore, we have many questions to the German side,” he told reporters.

On Thursday, 17 September 2020, The Guardian reported that associates of Alexei Navalny have said traces of novichok were found on a bottle of water in his hotel room in Tomsk, suggesting he was poisoned while in the Siberian city, and not, as previously suspected, from a cup of tea he drank at the airport. The Russian opposition leader fell ill on a flight from Tomsk to Moscow on 20 August. The plane made an emergency landing in Omsk, where he spent two days in a coma before being flown by a medical jet to Berlin. He remains in the Charité hospital in the German capital. A video posted to Navalny’s Instagram account on Thursday morning showed a search of his hotel room after news of his illness and two empty plastic water bottles on a table. These were bagged and later given to German authorities along with other items from the room, according to the post. “Two weeks later, a German laboratory found traces of novichok precisely on the bottle of water from the Tomsk hotel room,” the post said.

On Friday, 18 September 2020, Meduza reported that State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin thinks German intelligence agents may have poisoned Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny as part of a plot to undermine Moscow’s support for Belarusian sovereignty. In comments published on the State Duma’s website on Friday, Volodin condemned the European Parliament’s recent decision to cease recognition of Alexander Lukashenko’s presidency on November 5 and welcome the Belarusian opposition’s “Coordination Council” as an “interim representation of the people”: “After the European Parliament’s statements, a case could be made that foreign intelligence agencies are behind the situation with Navalny.” Volodin says Germany’s federal parliament and other legislatures throughout Europe should investigate the potential involvement of their own security agencies in the attack against the Russian oppositionist.

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