Tag Archives: russia

Belarus election: Lukashenko, in attempt for survival seek Putin’s help.

Advertisements

Russian leader agrees to $1.5bn loan with Minsk and says Belarus crisis should be resolved without foreign interference.

Russia has agreed to a $1.5bn loan with Minsk, President Vladimir Putin said at talks on Monday with Alexander Lukashenko, the embattled Belarusian leader, adding that the Belarusian people should resolve the crisis without foreign interference.

Putin, in comments broadcast on television from the talks in Russia’s Sochi, said he thought a proposal by Lukashenko to carry out constitutional reform was logical and timely.

Lukashenko arrived in Sochi to meet Putin on Monday, as protests continued across Belarus seeking the end of his rule following a disputed August 9 election.

His plane landed in the Black Sea region a day after police arrested 774 people at anti-government rallies across the country, including 500 in the capital, Minsk, the Belarusian interior ministry said. At least 100,000 protesters flooded the streets of Minsk on Sunday.

Advertisements

The meeting, in which Lukashenko thanked Putin for his support, marked the first face-to-face talks between the leaders since the contested Belarusian election.

Putin congratulated Lukashenko on his victory at the time, but later described the vote as not ideal. The Russian president’s actions have so far suggest he has no desire to see the leader of a neighbouring ex-Soviet country toppled by pressure from the streets – even if Lukashenko has often proved a prickly and difficult ally.

Protests, some featuring violence, have gripped the country for five weeks since the vote, with anti-Kremlin placards seen at some rallies

“I’m worried about Russia’s intentions to enforce its interests here. We have to be friends with Russia, but it is not good for neighbouring countries to be involved in our internal problems,” said a protester at Sunday’s rally.

Advertisements

Katsiaryna Shmatsina of the Belarusian Institute of Strategic Studies told Media known to Noble Reporters Media: “Lukashenko this month has exhausted all the tools he used to apply in the previous years which were used to large scale oppression towards people. People would get beaten and detained and then this would scale down protests. This time this doesnt work.”

On Monday, the UN rights council agreed to host an urgent debate on reports of violence at the hands of authorities during protests.

Lukashenko, 65, last week gave an interview to Russian journalists, including Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of Kremlin-controlled channel RT, in which he warned that if his government falls, “Russia will be next”.

Lukashenko, who has ruled the Eastern European nation of 9.5 million people with an iron fist since 1994, has previously blamed the West for fomenting demonstrations in Belarus in hopes of turning it into a “bridgehead against Russia”.

Advertisements

Reporting from Minsk, NRM said: “Lukashenko has left Belarus for the first time since the political crisis has started and his bargaining position has not improved after this mass rally on Sunday. He was hoping to keep the numbers low to show to President Putin that he has everything under control which obviously didn’t work.

“He needs more support from President Putin then ever before. And Putin is willing to give him his support because Putin really wants to prevent Belarus to fall in the hands of the West and possibly NATO. But that support will come at a price.”

Belarusian opposition politician Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, currently in Lithuania, warned Putin against signing any agreement with Lukashenko.

“She said she was sorry Putin was having a dialogue with an usurper and not with the Belarusian people,” said Vaessen.


#Newsworthy…

Russians vote in 41 regions inspired by Navalny poisoning.

Advertisements

Coming a year before parliamentary elections, the elections are seen as a key test of the Kremlin’s electoral machine.

Russians are voting in regional elections overshadowed by the poisoning of main opposition figure Alexey Navalny, an economic crisis exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and mass protests in some parts of the country.

The elections are being held in Russia’s 41 regions where people are casting their ballots for regional governors and assemblies, as well as in four by-elections for national MPs.

Reporting from Moscow, NRM affirm on Sunday the polls are viewed as a “major test” for the ruling United Russia party and President Vladimir Putin, who have both seen their ratings drop a year before parliamentary polls.

United Russia, which currently dominates the federal parliament and many regional administrations, is the party most closely associated with Putin. The longtime president, however, is not a current member of any political party and is thus able to distance himself from unpopular measures initiated by subordinate senior officials.

Advertisements

Last month, a nationwide survey by Russia’s biggest independent pollster, Levada Centre, showed that 29 percent of Russians would participate in anti-government protests if held in their area.

Tatyana Stanovaya, head of the R.Politik analysis firm, said the results of the polls will help the Kremlin determine whether United Russia needs to be reformed and if parliamentary elections should be pushed forward.

Navalny’s poisoning could also influence voters and bring about “contradictory effects”, Stanovaya told AFP news agency.

The 44-year-old, an anti-corruption crusader who is one of Putin’s fiercest critics, fell ill on a flight back to Moscow from Siberia on August 20 and was taken to a hospital in the Siberian city of Omsk after the plane made an emergency landing.

Advertisements

After he was evacuated to Berlin, German doctors said Navalny had been poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent.

His associates believe the use of the banned chemical weapon shows only the Russian state could be responsible. The Kremlin has rejected any suggestion that Russia was to blame.

‘Smart voting’
Led by Navalny, the opposition hopes to challenge Kremlin domination over Russia’s political life by promoting tactical voting, urging Russians to back the strongest candidate on the ballot to defeat the ruling party.

Navalny’s team urged Russians to vote for candidates from any party other than United Russia – Navalny had been in Siberia to promote the so-called “smart voting” when he fell ill.

Advertisements

Any other candidate – “a Communist, a Liberal Democratic Party member, a Just Russia party member” – would be “better than United Russia,” Navalny’s team said in a statement on Friday, referring to Russia’s four major political parties.

“Elections can be won,” it added, pointing to the far eastern city of Khabarovsk, where tens of thousands have taken to the streets there for the past two months over the arrest of a governor who defeated an incumbent from the governing party in 2018.

With Navalny still recovering and absent from Russia’s political scene, the “smart voting” campaign he had launched may be undermined, Stanovaya said.

“On the other hand, what happened to Navalny caused a shock,” Stanovaya said, noting that some of those who did not support him in the past may now change their minds.

Advertisements

In what some observers believe is another Kremlin ploy to dilute the opposition vote, candidates are also standing for four little-known new parties.

People vote during local elections in the Siberian city of Tomsk [Maxim Shemetov/Reuters]

‘Unite the opposition’
With United Russia facing a deep popularity crisis, elections in the country are for the first time being held over three days and some polling stations will be open-air.

Early voting began on Friday and the main polling day is on Sunday.

The controversial three-day voting scheme was first tested during a July 1 national vote on constitutional amendments that could make it possible for Putin to stay in power until 2036.

Advertisements

One of the highest-profile campaigns has taken place in Novosibirsk, where the head of Navalny’s office in Russia’s third-largest city, Sergei Boiko, brought together the opposition to counter United Russia and the Communist Party.

His “Novosibirsk 2020” coalition has put forward about 30 candidates for the city legislature and campaigned with the help of volunteers from Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Fund.

“This is an attempt to unite the opposition, all the people who are saying ‘no’ to the current regime,” Boiko told AFP.

The case of the former Khabarovsk governor and the protest movement in Russia’s neighbour Belarus have both sparked small-scale demonstrations in solidarity in Russian cities, suggesting there is growing potential for a protest vote.


#Newsworthy…

Debate opens in Germany over Navalny’s poisoning. [Russia]

Advertisements

German foreign minister’s comments on Russia-backed Nord Stream 2 pipeline suggest divisions in Berlin over project.

Germany’s support for the Russian-led Nord Stream 2 pipeline is developing a few cracks.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas over the weekend became the first member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet to link the natural-gas conduit’s fate to Russian cooperation with an inquiry into the poisoning of dissident Alexey Navalny. A lawmaker from Merkel’s party suggested suspending the project.

While there’s no sign that Merkel is about to pull the plug, the comments amplify the latest flare-up of exasperation about President Vladimir Putin in Berlin and suggest an emerging debate in Merkel’s governing coalition. The German leader has consistently backed the pipeline in the face of opposition by the U.S. and some European Union allies.

“I certainly hope that the Russians don’t force us to change our stance,” Maas told the Sunday newspaper Bild am Sonntag. If Russia doesn’t start helping clear up what happened to Navalny “in the next few days,” Germany will “have to consult with our partners about a response,” he said.

Pressure on the Gazprom-led project increased after the German military said last week that Navalny was attacked with novichok, a Russian-developed nerve agent. The chancellery in Berlin didn’t respond to a request for comment on Sunday.

Advertisements

Coalition officials have signaled that there is still little appetite to abandon the pipeline.

“Already raising or publicly invoking individual measures doesn’t help us,” said Rolf Muetzenich, caucus leader of the Social Democrats in the German parliament, in an apparent rebuttal to Maas, a fellow Social Democrat. Germany must discuss a joint response with allies, depending on Russia’s contribution, he said.

Merkel issued an uncharacteristically sharp rebuke over the novichok finding and pledged a coordinated response among NATO and EU members. At a news conference on Thursday, she didn’t repeat her demand made days earlier that the project should be finished.

German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the party chairwoman of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, also said any response hinges on “the behavior of the Russian side,” according to Reuters. She didn’t rule out a response involving Nord Stream.

Advertisements

Roderich Kiesewetter, a senior CDU lawmaker on the lower house’s foreign affairs committee, said on Twitter that short of scrapping the project, Germany could impose a moratorium on completing the pipeline, or back the completion but halt gas transit.

Norbert Roettgen, a CDU member who chairs the committee and is running for the CDU chairmanship, said last week that Germany should drop its support.

Global Pressure
U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told the BBC on Sunday that Russia has a “case to answer” over the alleged poisoning given its “track record.” While it’s too early to attribute blame, “it’s very difficult to come up with a plausible alternative explanation” other than Russia’s involvement, he said.

Russia has been linked to two previous poisonings in the U.K., with novichok suspected in the attempted murder in 2018 of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter on British soil.


#Newsworthy….

“Victim of a crime” Navalny out of coma. [Russia]

Advertisements

Russian opposition figure is responding to verbal stimuli and his condition has improved, German hospital says.

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, who Germany says was poisoned by a weapons-grade Novichok nerve agent, is now out of a medically induced coma and being weaned off mechanical ventilation.

The 44-year-old anti-corruption campaigner and one of President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critics, fell ill on a domestic flight last month and was treated in a Siberian hospital before being evacuated to Berlin.

“He is responding to verbal stimuli,” Charite hospital, where he is being treated in Berlin, said in a statement on Monday, adding that the 44-year old’s condition “has improved”.

However, the hospital said it was too early to determine the long-term effect of the poisoning.

Advertisements

Germany said last week toxicology tests conducted by its armed forces found “unequivocal evidence” that Navalny was poisoned with Novichok – the substance used in a 2018 attack on a former Russian double agent and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas then summoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Nechayev in protest and called for a full and transparent investigation.

Navalny’s associates say the use of Novichok, a Soviet-era military-grade nerve agent, shows only the Russian state could be responsible, but the Kremlin fiercely denies any involvement.

Advertisements

“Attempts to somehow associate Russia with what happened are unacceptable to us, they are absurd,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on Monday.

Russian officials have accused Germany of being slow to share the findings of its investigation, despite a request from prosecutors.

“We expect information [from Germany] to be provided in the coming days,” Peskov said. “We are looking forward to it.”

Western leaders have expressed concern at what Navalny’s allies say is the first known use of chemical weapons against a high-profile opposition leader on Russian soil.

Advertisements

The United Kingdom’s foreign office summoned the Russian ambassador on Monday, a spokesperson said in a statement.

Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny is seen at a rally in Moscow in February marking the fifth anniversary of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov’s murder [File: Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters]

“The foreign secretary has made it clear that it is absolutely unacceptable that a banned chemical weapon has been used, and that violence has again been directed against a leading Russian opposition figure,” it said.

“There is a case here for Russia to answer. This took place on Russian soil, against a Russian citizen. They have international obligations to uphold. This is nothing short of an attack against the rules based international system which keeps our societies safe.

“Russia needs to conduct a full, transparent criminal investigation into Mr Navalny’s poisoning. We will work with our partners … to hold the perpetrators to account.”

Advertisements

Pipeline in crosshairs
Germany has warned a failure by Moscow to thoroughly investigate the incident could have serious consequences.

Maas said on Sunday Germany, which holds the rotating EU presidency, will discuss possible sanctions against Russia if the Kremlin does not soon provide an explanation for what happened to Navalny.

Otherwise, Germany will be compelled to “discuss a response with our allies” including “targeted” sanctions, Maas said.

He did not rule out action relating to Nord Stream 2, a 10 billion euro ($11bn) Russian-German gas pipeline nearing completion.

Advertisements

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman said on Monday she was in agreement with Maas, who is a member of the junior coalition partner Social Democrats.

She too would not rule out consequences for the pipeline beneath the Baltic Sea, which is set to double Russian natural gas shipments to Germany, Europe’s largest economy.

The Navalny poisoning is the latest in a long series of assassination attempts against Kremlin critics. Navalny’s aides have said they suspect he drank a cup of spiked tea at the airport.

The charismatic Yale-educated lawyer was initially treated at a Russian hospital, where doctors said they were unable to find any toxic substances in his blood, before he was flown to Berlin for specialised treatment on August 22.


#Newsworthy…

COVID-19: Nigeria receives virus vaccine from Russia.

Advertisements

The Nigerian Government has received the samples of Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine.

Russia’s Ambassador to Nigeria, Alexey Shebarshin gave the samples of the COVID-19 vaccine to the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire during a visit to the Ministry in Abuja on Friday.

The Russian Ambassador also handed over to the Minister an aide memoire which gives details about the vaccine to help the Nigerian Government conduct further research on it.

“We are exploring all knowledge in terms of therapeutics and vaccines,” the Ministry quoted Ehanire as saying.

“We are expressing our interest in the COVID-19 vaccine so that we will have the opportunity to work elaborately.”

He explained that the country has been taking part in a series of knowledge exchange and contact with several research bodies and nations in a bid to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Advertisements

Ehanire noted that the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Nigeria for the right of access, immediately the Russian COVID-19 vaccine was announced.

The Director of Hospital Services Department in the Ministry, Dr Adepimpe Adebiyi who was also present at the event said it is an opportunity to expand Nigeria’s vaccine production.

“The technical officers will interphase with the #Russian team in order to strengthen the relationship between Nigeria and Russia,” he said.

L-R: The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire receives the aide-memoire from the Russian Ambassador to Nigeria, Alexey Shebarshin. Photo: Twitter@Federal Ministry of Health.

‘No Serious Adverse Events’
Russia had on August 11th, 2020, announced that it had developed the vaccine which has now shown some signs of success in early trials.

Advertisements

Patients involved in early tests of the vaccine developed antibodies with “no serious adverse events”, according to research published in The Lancet Friday, but experts said the trials were too small to prove safety and effectiveness.

Russia announced last month that its vaccine, named “Sputnik V” after the Soviet-era satellite that was the first launched into space in 1957, had already received approval.

This raised concerns among Western scientists over a lack of safety data, with some warning that moving too quickly on a vaccine could be dangerous.

Russia denounced criticism as an attempt to undermine Moscow’s research.


#Newsworthy….

[Russia] Navalny poisoned with Novichok – NATO Chief.

Advertisements

Alliance members demand Moscow reveal Novichok programme to global chemical weapons agency as West-Russia tension brews.

The NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said there was “proof beyond doubt” that Alexey Navalny was poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent amid a widening rift between Western powers and Russia over the suspected attack on the Kremlin critic.

Stoltenberg’s comments on Friday were in line with statements by Berlin earlier in the week, with a special German military laboratory claiming to have proof a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok group was used.

Navalny, 44, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critics, fell ill on a flight returning to Moscow from Siberia on August 20 and was taken to a hospital in the Siberian city of Omsk after the plane made an emergency landing.

He was later transferred to Berlin’s Charite hospital, where doctors last week said there were indications he had been poisoned.

Advertisements

He remains in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator, but his condition is reportedly improving.

An ambulance parks after the arrival of Russian opposition activist Alexey Navalny at Charite clinic in Berlin [File: Alexander Becher/EPA-EFE]

The Russian doctors who treated Navalny in Siberia have repeatedly contested the German hospital’s conclusion, saying they ruled out poisoning as a diagnosis and their tests for poisonous substances came back negative.

NATO allies agreed on Friday that Russia must cooperate fully with an impartial investigation to be led by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) into the poisoning of Navalny, the alliance’s chief said.

“Any use of chemical weapons shows a total disrespect for human lives, and is an unacceptable breach of international norms and rules,” Stoltenberg told reporters.

Advertisements

“NATO allies agree that Russia now has serious questions it must answer, the Russian government must fully cooperate with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons on an impartial international investigation,” he said, reporting back from a meeting of the alliance’s ambassadors.

Earlier, Russia’s Investigative Committee asked one of its regional branches in Siberia to probe the possibility that someone tried to murder Navalny.

But overall, the Kremlin has rejected any suggestion that Russia was responsible and has not opened a criminal case, citing a lack of evidence.

A Moscow court on Friday dismissed a complaint brought by Navalny’s legal team over the inaction of the Russian Investigative Committee, as Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev said he saw no grounds, for now, to suspect a crime was committed.


#Newsworthy…

Alexey Navalny: World leaders react to alleged poisoning in Russia

Advertisements

Germany says lab test showed ‘proof without doubt’ that Russian opposition leader Navalny poisoned.


Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was poisoned with the same type of Soviet-era nerve agent that British authorities identified in a 2018 attack on a former Russian spy, Germany has said.

The German government said testing by a German military laboratory showed “proof without doubt of a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok group”.

The Berlin hospital treating Navalny said he remains in a serious condition though he is improving.

The findings – which experts say point strongly to Russian state involvement – are likely to increase tensions between Russia and the West.

Advertisements

It said it expects a long recovery, and it still cannot rule out long-term consequences from the poisoning.

Here is how world leaders and organisations reacted to the news:

Russia
The Kremlin said Russia was ready to cooperate fully with Germany.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists: “In general, we confirm that we are ready and have an interest in full cooperation and exchange of data on this topic with Germany.”

Advertisements

Peskov complained that Russia had not received an answer to its request for German doctors to share their findings.

He insisted that before Navalny was evacuated to Berlin on August 22, Russia had not found traces of poisoning, reflecting earlier statements by doctors.

France
France said the use of Novichok against Russia’s Navalny was “shocking and irresponsible”.

“I want to condemn in the strongest terms the shocking and irresponsible use of such an agent,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement.

Advertisements

Calling on Russia to explain what had happened, he added: “Given Mr Navalny’s political status in Russia, the attack against him raises serious questions. It is the responsibility of the Russian authorities to respond to them.”

United Kingdom
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the news was “outrageous” and urged Moscow to “explain” what had happened.

“We have seen first-hand the deadly consequences of Novichok in the UK,” Johnson said on Twitter.

“The Russian government must now explain what happened to Mr Navalny – we will work with international partners to ensure justice is done,” Johnson said.

Advertisements

The UK’s Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said in a separate statement that Russia “must tell the truth” about what had occurred.

It’s outrageous that a chemical weapon was used against Alexey Navalny. We have seen first-hand the deadly consequences of Novichok in the UK. The Russian government must now explain what happened to Mr Navalny – we will work with international partners to ensure justice is done.

Germany
Chancellor Merkel said she strongly condemned the poisoning, saying he is the “victim of a crime”.

“The aim was to silence him and I strongly condemn this [crime] in the name of the German government,” Merkel said during a news conference.

Advertisements

Merkel announced that Germany was notifying its EU and NATO partners about the test results in order to decide on “an appropriate, joint reaction”.

United States
The White House said it is “deeply troubled” by confirmation in Germany.

“Alexei Navalny’s poisoning is completely reprehensible,” National Security Council spokesman John Ullyot said on Twitter.

“We will work with allies and the international community to hold those in Russia accountable, wherever the evidence leads, and restrict funds for their malign activities.

Advertisements

“The Russian people have a right to express their views peacefully without fear of retribution of any kind, and certainly not with chemical agents.”

European Union
The EU chief Ursula von der Leyen denounced what she called the “despicable and cowardly” poisoning of Navalny.

Those responsible should be brought to justice, she said.

“This is a despicable and cowardly act – once again. Perpetrators need to be brought to justice,” she added.


#Newsworthy…


There was never ‘poisoning of Navalny’ – Russia’s Lukashenko tells PM

Advertisements

Mishustin visits Lukashenko to offer moral support as Belarus leader claims that Kremlin foe’s poisoning was faked.


Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has said Belarus should not allow external pressure to preserve its sovereign and territorial integrity, Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.

Mishustin made the comments on Thursday during a visit to Belarus, where longtime leader Alexander Lukashenko is under huge pressure from opposition protesters demanding his resignation after a disputed presidential election on August 9.

Meanwhile, in another sign of strengthened ties between Belarus and Russia, Lukashenko entered a growing rift between Western powers and Moscow over the poisoning of Kremlin foe Alexey Navalny.

Lukashenko claimed on Thursday that his security forces had intercepted German calls showing that Navalny’s poisoning had been faked.

Advertisements

Lukashenko told Mishustin in Minsk that a call between Berlin and Warsaw showed that the incident was a “falsification”.

“There was no poisoning of Navalny,” Lukashenko told a poker-faced Mishustin during their televised meeting.

“They did it – I quote – in order to discourage [Russian President Vladimir] Putin from sticking his nose into Belarus’s affairs.”

Advertisements

Lukashenko provided no further details but said he would hand over transcripts to Russia’s security services.

The claim about Navalny could be aimed at currying favour with Moscow, which has voiced support for Lukashenko during the protests.

Navalny’s top aide Leonid Volkov dismissed the claim as ridiculous, accusing the Russian prime minister of being an accomplice to the “attempted murder” by playing along in “this circus”.

Germany said on Wednesday that tests had proven Navalny was poisoned with Novichok, after he fell ill on a plane in Siberia last month and was eventually taken to Berlin for treatment.

Advertisements

Meanwhile, the global chemical weapons agency Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said the poisoning of any individual with a toxic nerve agent would be considered the use of a banned chemical weapon.

Novichok was banned this year by the OPCW.

Navalny, 44, remains in an artificially induced coma but his condition is improving, his German doctors have said.

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Belarusian Prime Minister Roman Golovchenko walk during a meeting in Minsk [Alexander Astafyev/Sputnik/Pool via Reuters]

Lukashenko promoted hardline loyalists to top posts in his security apparatus on Thursday in an effort to strengthen his grip on the former Soviet republic after weeks of mass protests and strikes.

Lukashenko, facing the biggest challenge to his 26-year rule, accompanied the reshuffle with instructions to act tough in the face of what he has repeatedly alleged is foreign aggression.

Advertisements

“Belarus finds itself confronting an external aggressor one-to-one,” he told the new security chiefs.

“Therefore I ask you to take this to the people. They shouldn’t condemn me for any sort of softness. There’s no softness here. The country is working, although many, especially our neighbours, would like us to collapse.”

In recent years the Kremlin has pushed for closer economic and political integration between the ex-Soviet countries but Lukashenko has so far resisted an outright unification.

Lukashenko and Putin are set to meet in Moscow in the next few weeks.


#Newsworthy…


Russia: OPCW issues warning amid Navalny’s case.

Advertisements

OPCW issues warning amid growing rift between Western powers and Moscow over poisoning of Kremlin critic.


In a statement regarding the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny, the global chemical weapons agency said the poisoning of any individual with a toxic nerve agent would be considered use of a banned chemical weapon.

“Any poisoning of an individual through the use of a nerve agent is considered a use of chemical weapons. Such an allegation is a matter of grave concern,” the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said on Thursday.

Novichok was banned this year by the OPCW.

Meanwhile, Russia rejected accusations that Moscow was to blame for the poisoning of opposition leader Navalny, saying it saw no grounds for sanctions to be imposed against it over the case.

Advertisements

The Kremlin’s denial came on Thursday, a day after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Navalny had been poisoned with a Soviet-style Novichok nerve agent in an attempt to murder him.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow rejected any suggestion that Russia was responsible and warned other countries against jumping to hasty conclusions.

He said there was no reason to discuss measures against Moscow after Merkel said Germany would consult its NATO allies about how to respond to the poisoning.

The Charite hospital in Berlin, where Navalny is lying in intensive care, has reported “some improvement” in his condition, but he remains in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator.

Advertisements

In a statement on Wednesday, Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said testing by a special German military laboratory had shown “proof without doubt of a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok group”, as he described Navalny as the “victim of an attack with a chemical nerve agent in Russia”.

Merkel later told a news conference: “This is disturbing information about the attempted murder through poisoning against a leading Russian opposition figure.”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas urged Moscow to investigate the poisoning, and said the Russian ambassador had been summoned to explain the evidence.

“This makes it all the more urgent that those responsible in Russia be identified and held accountable,” Maas told reporters. “We condemn this attack in the strongest terms.”

Advertisements

Novichok – a military-grade nerve agent – was used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the United Kingdom.

‘European response’
Navalny, 44, a politician and anti-corruption crusader who is one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critics, fell ill on a flight back to Moscow from Siberia on August 20 and was taken to a hospital in the Siberian city of Omsk after the plane made an emergency landing.

He was later transferred to Charite hospital, where doctors last week said there were indications he had been poisoned.

Navalny is one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critics [File:Sefa Karacan/Anadolu]

The Russian doctors who treated Navalny in Siberia have repeatedly contested the German hospital’s conclusion, saying they ruled out poisoning as a diagnosis and their tests for poisonous substances came back negative.

Advertisements

Reporting from Moscow, NRM said Russia’s response was so far “cautious and restrained”.

“The Russian doctors released Navalny with a ‘metabolic disorder’ diagnosis. Two labs in Russia didn’t find anything suspicious and a pre-investigation didn’t find anything leading to foul play,” she said.

“On the other hand, the opposition is saying, ‘We knew [it was Novichok] – all the symptoms are there.'”

Novichok is a cholinesterase inhibitor, part of the class of substances that doctors at the Charite initially identified in Navalny.

Advertisements

Navalny’s allies said the German government’s identification of the poison used against him suggested the Russian state had been behind the attack.

“Only the state [FSB, GRU] can use Novichok. This is beyond any reasonable doubt,” Ivan Zhdanov, director of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, said on Twitter, referring to the FSB internal security and GRU military intelligence services.

Meanwhile, Norbert Roettgen, head of Germany’s parliamentary foreign affairs committee, told Deutschlandfunk radio on Thursday that “there must be a European response” when asked whether work on the NordStream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany should stop in the wake of Navalny’s poisoning.

“We must pursue hard politics, we must respond with the only language [Russian President Vladimir] Putin understands – that is gas sales,” said Roettgen, a member of Merkel’s ruling conservatives.


#Newsworthy…


News+: Russia rejects Navalny accusations after German poisoning finding.

Advertisements

Moscow’s denial comes after Germany says Navalny had been poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent in a bid to murder him.


Russia has rejected accusations that Moscow was to blame for the poisoning of opposition leader Alexey Navalny, saying it saw no grounds for sanctions to be imposed against it over the case.

The Kremlin denial came on Thursday, a day after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Navalny had been poisoned with a Soviet-style Novichok nerve agent in an attempt to murder him.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow rejected any suggestion that Russia was responsible and warned other countries against jumping to hasty conclusions.

He said there was no reason to discuss measures against Moscow after Merkel said Germany would consult its NATO allies about how to respond to the poisoning.

Advertisements

The Charite hospital in Berlin, where Navalny is being treated, has reported “some improvement” in his condition, but he remains in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator.

In a statement on Wednesday, Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said testing by a special German military laboratory had shown “proof without doubt of a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok group”.

“It is a dismaying event that Alexey Navalny was the victim of an attack with a chemical nerve agent in Russia,” Seibert said.

Merkel later told a news conference: “This is disturbing information about the attempted murder through poisoning against a leading Russian opposition figure.”

Advertisements

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas urged Moscow to investigate the poisoning, and said the Russian ambassador had been summoned to explain the evidence.

“This makes it all the more urgent that those responsible in Russia be identified and held accountable,” Maas told reporters. “We condemn this attack in the strongest terms.”

Novichok – a military-grade nerve agent – was used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the United Kingdom.

Navalny’s condition
Navalny, 44, a politician and anti-corruption crusader who is one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critics, fell ill on a flight back to Moscow from Siberia on August 20 and was taken to a hospital in the Siberian city of Omsk after the plane made an emergency landing.

Advertisements

He was later transferred to Charite hospital, where doctors last week said there were indications he had been poisoned.

The Russian doctors who treated Navalny in Siberia have repeatedly contested the German hospital’s conclusion, saying they ruled out poisoning as a diagnosis and their tests for poisonous substances came back negative.

Reporting from Moscow, Noble Reporters Media said Russia’s response was so far “cautious and restrained”.

“The Russian doctors released Navalny with a ‘metabolic disorder’ diagnosis. Two labs in Russia didn’t find anything suspicious and a pre-investigation didn’t find anything leading to foul play,” she said.

Advertisements

“On the other hand, the opposition is saying, ‘We knew [it was Novichok] – all the symptoms are there.'”

Novichok is a cholinesterase inhibitor, part of the class of substances that doctors at the Charite initially identified in Navalny.

Navalny is one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critics [File:Sefa Karacan/Anadolu]

Navalny’s allies said the German government’s identification of the poison used against him suggested the Russian state had been behind the attack.

“Only the state [FSB, GRU] can use Novichok. This is beyond any reasonable doubt,” Ivan Zhdanov, director of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, said on Twitter, referring to the FSB internal security and GRU military intelligence services.


SOURCE: NOBLE REPORTERS MEDIA, NEWS AGENCIES


#Newsworthy…

Nerve Agent Found in Russia’s Navalny: Germany

Advertisements

Novichok, a Soviet-era chemical weapon, was used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in the United Kingdom.


Tests performed on samples taken from prominent Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny showed the presence of the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok, the German government said.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said in a statement on Wednesday testing by a special German military laboratory had shown “proof without doubt of a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok group”.

“It is a dismaying event that Alexey Navalny was the victim of an attack with a chemical nerve agent in Russia,” Seibert said. “The German government condemns this attack in the strongest terms. The Russian government is urgently requested to provide clarifications over the incident.”

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia was not informed of the German findings and had no such data, Noble Reporters Media gathered

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas urged Moscow to investigate the poisoning, and said the Russian ambassador had been summoned to explain the evidence.

Advertisements

“This makes it all the more urgent that those responsible in Russia be identified and held accountable,” Maas told reporters. “We condemn this attack in the strongest terms.”

Novichok – a military grade nerve agent – was used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the United Kingdom.

The Charite hospital in Berlin, where Navalny is being treated, has reported “some improvement” in his condition, but he remains in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator.

Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny takes part in a rally in Moscow, Russia, in February [Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters]

‘Joint response’

Navalny, 44, a politician and corruption investigator who is one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critics, fell ill on a flight back to Moscow from Siberia on August 20 and was taken to a hospital in the Siberian city of Omsk after the plane made an emergency landing.

Advertisements

He was later transferred to Charite hospital, where doctors last week said there were indications he had been poisoned.

Seibert said the German government would inform its partners in the European Union and NATO about the Novichok test results. He said it would consult with its partners in light of the Russian response “on an appropriate joint response”.

Navalny’s allies in Russia have insisted he was deliberately poisoned by the country’s authorities, accusations the Kremlin rejected as “empty noise”.

“To poison Navalny with Novichok in 2020 would be exactly the same as leaving an autograph at a crime scene, like this one,” Navalny’s longtime ally and strategist Leonid Volkov said in a tweet that featured a photo of Putin’s name and a signature next to it.

Advertisements

The Russian doctors who treated Navalny in Siberia have repeatedly contested the German hospital’s conclusion, saying they ruled out poisoning as a diagnosis and their tests for poisonous substances came back negative.

German hospital: Clinical findings point to Navalny’s poisoning (4:07)

Reporting from Moscow, Noble Reporters Media learnt Russia’s response was so far “cautious and restrained”.

“The Russian doctors released Navalny with a ‘metabolic disorder’ diagnosis. Two labs in Russia didn’t find anything suspicious and a pre-investigation didn’t find anything leading to foul play,” she said. “On the other hand, the opposition is saying, ‘We knew [it was Novichok] – all the symptoms are there.'”

Is the Russian opposition finished?
Novichok is a deadly group of nerve agents developed by the Soviet military in the 1970s and ’80s. It is a cholinesterase inhibitor, part of the class of substances that doctors at the Charite initially identified in Navalny.

Advertisements

“Only the state [FSB, GRU] can use Novichok. This is beyond any reasonable doubt,” Ivan Zhdanov, director of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, said on Twitter, referring to the FSB internal security and GRU military intelligence services.

READ MORE: In: Russian medics accept Nalvany evacuation.

The Navalny case has drawn parallels with two suspected Kremlin-linked poisonings in the UK.

British authorities identified Novichok as the poison used in 2018 on former Russian spy Skripal and his daughter in Salsbury, England.

In 2006, Putin was blamed for the radiation poisoning death of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in the British capital.


#Newsworthy…

Belarus elections: Don’t intervene – European Union urges Russia.

Advertisements

The EU urged Russia on Friday not to intervene in Belarus after President Vladimir Putin vowed military support for the country’s embattled leader.

As EU foreign ministers meeting in Berlin discussed the crisis, President Alexander Lukashenko — facing unprecedented protests calling for him to quit — accused the West of trying to topple him in order to weaken Moscow.

Meanwhile neighbouring Ukraine, which saw its own pro-Russian leader toppled after bloody protests in 2014, has offered refuge to Belarusians fleeing a regime crackdown.

The EU has rejected the official results of an August 9 presidential poll in Belarus, which saw Lukashenko re-elected with 80 percent of votes, and is preparing sanctions against his regime for electoral fraud and a violent crackdown on opposition protesters.

Putin on Thursday said he stood ready to send in his military to stabilise Belarus after weeks of huge demonstrations calling for Lukashenko, often dubbed “Europe’s last dictator”, to quit and hold new elections.

“I have heard many times from Russia the mantra that this is a domestic internal affair for Belarus and they do not want external interference. I suppose it’s also valid for themselves,” EU foreign affairs high representative Josep Borrell said.

Advertisements

“It is solely for the Belarusian people to determine their own future,” he added, urging Russia to “respect the wishes and democratic choices of the Belarusian people.”

French President Emmanuel Macron was blunter, telling reporters in Paris that the “worst thing would be Russian intervention” in Belarus.

There “could be no repeat of what happened in Ukraine”, Macron added.

After an uprising in 2014, Russia annexed the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula of Crimea and pro-Moscow forces declared breakaway republics in Ukrainian regions in the east.

Advertisements

‘Springboard to Russia’
Putin on Thursday also called on the Minsk authorities and the opposition to “find a way out” of the crisis peacefully, but the threat of military intervention by the Kremlin has raised the spectre of the crisis on the EU’s doorstep taking a darker turn.

Lukashenko, who has ruled the ex-Soviet state for 26 years, renewed his claims that the West wanted to see the back of him for its own ends.

“Belarus is just a springboard to Russia, as always,” he said, according to the state news agency Belta.

“Unlike Hitler, who sent his army to Moscow, they are trying to destroy the government in place here and replace it with a new one that will ask another country for military assistance and deploy troops.”

Advertisements

EU foreign ministers meeting in Berlin gave their backing to a list of some 20 individuals to be hit with asset freezes and travel bans for their role in rigging the Belarus election or cracking down on demonstrators.

Borrell said the list would encompass “individuals at high political level”, but it looks unlikely to include Lukashenko himself, despite calls from some countries for him to be targeted.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas talk before a press statement on August 28, 2020 in Berlin, Germany.
Kay Nietfeld / POOL / AFP

‘Deeply alarming’
The EU is supporting offers by the OSCE to broker a negotiated end to the crisis and hitting Lukashenko in person is seen as counterproductive to these efforts.

The OSCE on Friday described the post-election violence in Belarus as “deeply alarming” and called on Minsk to accept its offer to support dialogue and avoid a “nightmare”.

Advertisements

The current OSCE chair, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, said the sooner dialogue started “the better it is for everyone”.

Macron said Putin had told him Russia was open to OSCE mediation but Lukashenko was opposed.

“He (Putin) has to make efforts to help us in this direction,” the French president added.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Belarusians seeking to enter “Ukraine in an attempt to flee the crisis” would receive entry permits from his country’s border guards.

Advertisements

He said they will be given preferential treatment and be exempt from a month-long entry ban over spiking coronavirus cases.

The demonstrations that erupted in Belarus after the election and the violent police crackdown that followed have prompted comparisons with Ukraine’s pro-Western uprising in 2014.

Lukashenko’s notorious security services violently broke up peaceful protests after the vote, arresting nearly 7,000 people in a clampdown that sparked widespread allegations of torture and abuse in police custody.

Opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya fled to neighbouring EU country Lithuania after claiming she beat the 65-year-old leader and calling for the protests.


#Newsworthy…

Belarus elections: Russian Putin pledges military support for Lukashenko.

Advertisements

Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed military support for embattled Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko on Thursday, while urging a peaceful resolution to unrest and demonstrations that erupted after a disputed election.

EU ambassadors in the capital Minsk on Thursday denounced a crackdown on the opposition in the wake of the presidential poll, in which 65-year-old Lukashenko claimed a landslide reelection with some 80 percent of the vote.

The Belarusian strongman’s relationship with Putin had soured ahead of the August 9 ballot because Minsk refused closer integration with Russia — and even claimed Moscow had sent mercenaries across the border to organise riots.

Yet Putin on Thursday promised military backing for Belarus and said Russia had set up a reserve group of law enforcement officers to deploy if the post-vote situation deteriorated.

Advertisements

“It won’t be used unless the situation starts to get out of control,” Putin said, unless “extremist elements … begin setting fire to cars, houses and banks, begin seizing administrative buildings”.

But Putin also called on the authorities in Minsk and the opposition to “find a way out” of the crisis peacefully.

He conceded there were problems in Belarus, saying, “otherwise people wouldn’t take to the streets”.

The Russian leader’s calls for calm came after the European Union and ambassadors of member states in Minsk condemned a crackdown on government critics seeking new elections and Lukashenko’s resignation.

Advertisements

– ‘Unacceptable’ prosecution –

The opposition created a Coordination Council to oversee the peaceful transition of power after their leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya fled to neighbouring Lithuania fearing reprisals.

Lukashenko ordered a criminal probe into the opposition’s attempts to “seize power” and several of the presidium’s members have been detained or summoned for questioning.

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the nation via teleconference at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow on May 11, 2020. – President Vladimir Putin on May 11, 2020 said Russia’s non-working period imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus will be lifted from May 12. (Photo by Alexey NIKOLSKY / SPUTNIK / AFP)

Maria Kolesnikova, an aide of Tikhanovskaya and member of the council, was summoned by investigators for questioning on Thursday. She said she invoked her right not to testify against herself.

The group’s most prominent member, Nobel Prize-winning author and outspoken government critic Svetlana Alexievich, was questioned by investigators on Wednesday and also refused to answer questions.

Advertisements

Two of the presidium’s members this week were sentenced to 10 days each in police detention for organising unsanctioned rallies and disobeying law enforcement orders.

“The European diplomats emphasised that prosecution of Coordination Council members on grounds presented by the authorities is unacceptable,” a joint statement said.

EU nations have also vowed to sanction individuals they say were involved in vote-rigging and the violent crackdown on protesters.

The EU ambassadors in Minsk on Thursday said that: “Belarusians are asking for an open dialogue with their own authorities about the future of their country,” urging “a peaceful and democratic process, underpinned by independent and free media and a strong civil society”.

Advertisements

– ‘Diplomatic war’ –

Lukashenko has dismissed calls to resign or host new elections, instead accusing Western countries and Russia of stirring political unrest.

The authoritarian leader on Thursday said the ex-Soviet country’s European neighbours had declared a “diplomatic war” and were meddling in Belarus’s internal affairs.

Last week he described demonstrators as “rats” in a video that showed him carrying an assault rifle, after more than 100,000 people took to the streets to demand he stand down.

His notorious security services rounded up nearly 7,000 participants in peaceful rallies that erupted in the days after the vote, and hundreds of detainees claimed they were abused by police in custody.

Advertisements

Local and international rights groups have urged the UN to investigate allegations of systematic torture at the hands of security services.

Tikhanovskaya, a 37-year-old political newcomer who ran in place of her jailed husband, called for historic demonstrations and mass strikes following the election.

Workers at state-owned factories initially downed tools and joined the walk-outs in large numbers, but fewer employees have kept up participation due to pressure from the authorities, activists have said.

Industry Minister Pyotr Parkhomchik said Thursday that there were no ongoing strikes and that “all assembly lines have been restarted.”


#Newsworthy…

Update: Plane conveying Russian Navalny lands Germany

Advertisements

Prominent Kremlin critic, who is in coma after a suspected poisoning, is evacuated to Berlin for medical care.


A plane carrying prominent Russian politician Alexei Navalny who is in a coma after a suspected poisoning has arrived in Berlin from the Siberian city of Omsk, according to Kira Yarmysh, Navalny’s spokeswoman.

The plane with German doctors took off just after 8am local time (02:00 GMT) on Saturday, after more than 24 hours of wrangling over Alexei Navalny’s condition and treatment, with the opposition leader’s allies accusing Russian authorities of trying to stop his evacuation.

Kira Yarmysh said the politician was transferred to an ambulance early on Saturday and driven to the airport.

“The plane carrying Alexei is flying to Berlin,” she said on Twitter.

“Many thanks to everyone for their support. The fight for Alexei’s life and health is just beginning and there is a long way to go, but at least the first step has been taken.”

Advertisements

Navalny’s wife, Yulia, was also on board the flight, Yarmysh said.

One of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critics, Navalny was admitted to an intensive care unit in Omsk on Thursday. His supporters believe that tea he drank was laced with poison – and that the Kremlin is behind both his illness and the delay in transferring him to a top German hospital.

Russian doctors say there is no evidence of poisoning, and the Kremlin denied the authorities tried to prevent the transfer from happening.

Even after German specialists arrived on a plane equipped with advanced medical equipment on Friday morning at his family’s behest, Navalny’s physicians in Omsk said he was too unstable to move.

Advertisements

Navalny’s supporters denounced that as a ploy by authorities to stall until any poison in his system would no longer be traceable. The Omsk medical team relented only after a charity that had organised the medevac plane revealed that the German doctors examined the politician and said he was fit to be transported.

Deputy chief doctor of the Omsk hospital Anatoly Kalinichenko then told reporters that Navalny’s condition had stabilised and that physicians “didn’t mind” transferring the politician, given that his relatives were willing “to take on the risks”.

Medical specialists carry Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on a stretcher into an ambulance on their way to an airport before his medical evacuation to Germany [Alexey Malgavko/ Reuters]

The Kremlin denied resistance to the transfer was political, with spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying that it was purely a medical decision. However, the reversal came as international pressure on Russia’s leadership mounted.

On Thursday, leaders of France and Germany said the two countries were ready to offer Navalny and his family any and all assistance and insisted on an investigation into what happened. On Friday, European Union spokeswoman Nabila Massrali added that the bloc was urging Russian authorities to allow him to be taken abroad.

Advertisements

Also on Friday, the European Court of Human Rights said it was considering a request from Navalny’s supporters that it urge the Russian government to let the politician be moved.

The most prominent member of Russia’s opposition, Navalny campaigned to challenge Putin in the 2018 presidential election but was barred from running. Since then, he has been promoting opposition candidates in regional elections, challenging members of the ruling party, United Russia.

His Anti-Corruption Foundation has been exposing graft among government officials, including some at the highest level. But he had to shut the foundation last month after a financially devastating lawsuit from a businessman with close ties to the Kremlin.

Ariel Cohen, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media) the suspected poisoning of Navalny was not the first time that critics of the Kremlin have been targeted in such a way.

Advertisements

He noted the assassination of Russian politician Boris Nemstov in 2015, the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB agent who died in 2006 after drinking a cup of tea laced with radioactive plutonium, as well as the case of Sergei Skripal, a Russian spy who spent weeks in critical condition after being poisoned with the military-grade nerve agent Novichok in the British city of Salisbury.

“So clearly, being an outspoken opposition leader or being a corruption fighter or a whistle-blower in Russia is a dangerous business indeed,” Cohen said.

“Navalny was doing a lot of work exposing corruption, including at the highest level … and this is what they do to retaliate against their critics.”

Navalny fell ill while flying back to Moscow from the Siberian city of Tomsk, where had met allies ahead of regional elections next month. His plane made an emergency landing in Omsk, and he was taken on a stretcher, motionless, from the plane and rushed to the hospital.

Advertisements

His team made arrangements to transfer him to Charite, a clinic in Berlin that has a history of treating famous foreign leaders and dissidents.

While his supporters and family members continue to insist that Navalny was poisoned, doctors in Omsk denied that and put forth another theory.

The hospital’s chief doctor, Alexander Murakhovsky, said in a video published by Omsk news outlet NGS55 that a metabolic disorder was the most likely diagnosis and that a drop in blood sugar may have caused Navalny to lose consciousness.

But Dr Anastasia Vasilyeva, who has ties to Navalny, said that diagnosing the politician with a “metabolic disorder” says nothing about what may have caused it – and it could have been the result of a poisoning.


#Newsworthy..

In: Russian medics accept Nalvany evacuation.

Advertisements

Russian medics have agreed to allow the medical evacuation of the opposition leader Alexei Navalny from a Siberian hospital at his relatives’ request, the hospital’s deputy chief doctor said on Friday.

“We… took the decision that we do not oppose his transfer to another hospital, the one that his relatives indicate to us,” the deputy chief doctor of the Omsk hospital, Anatoly Kalinichenko, told journalists.

Earlier on Friday, Navalny’s wife had appealed to President Vladimir Putin to allow a medical evacuation as German doctors rebutted claims he was too sick to be moved.

Advertisements

Navalny, a 44-year-old lawyer and anti-corruption campaigner who is among Putin’s fiercest critics, was in a coma in intensive care in the Siberian city of Omsk after he lost consciousness while on a flight and his plane made an emergency landing on Thursday.

Navalny’s aides say they believe he was poisoned and that something was put in his tea at an airport cafe, but doctors on Friday said “no trace” of any poison was found.

Anatoly Kalinichenko, deputy head doctor at Omsk Emergency Hospital No. 1 where Alexei Navalny was admitted after he fell ill in what his spokeswoman said was a suspected poisoning, speaks to the media in Omsk on August 21, 2020. Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP

His supporters organised an air ambulance with specialists from a German clinic that arrived at Omsk airport on Friday and the medics examined him later in the day.

The German doctors said they were “able and willing” to fly him to Berlin’s Charite hospital, the Cinema For Peace foundation that organised the flight said.

Advertisements

Russian doctors however ruled he was too “unstable” to be moved.

Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya, posted on Twitter a letter addressed to Putin, saying: “I officially apply to you with a demand for permission to take Alexei Navalny to Germany.”

The anti-graft campaigner’s team also appealed to the European Court of Human Rights to ask the Russian government to allow his transfer.

In this file photo taken on May 05, 2018 Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny addresses supporters during an unauthorized anti-Putin rally in Moscow, two days ahead of Vladimir Putin’s inauguration for a fourth Kremlin term. Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP

Navalny is the latest in a long line of Kremlin critics who have fallen seriously ill or died in apparent poisonings.

Advertisements

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said there were “no obstacles” to evacuating Navalny and this was “purely a medical decision”.

The Omsk hospital’s chief doctor, Alexander Murakhovsky, said medics agreed Navalny could only be moved after “sustained stabilisation of his state”.

Tests had shown no trace of any poison and suggested Navalny lost consciousness due to a fall in blood sugar, Murakhovsky said.

In this file photo taken on January 16, 2018 Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny smiles during an interview with AFP at the office of his Anti-corruption Foundation (FBK) in Moscow. Mladen ANTONOV / AFP

“We didn’t find any poisonous substances,” he said, giving a preliminary diagnosis of a “metabolic disorder”.

Advertisements

Navalny’s wife said guards and plain-clothed officers blocked her way as she attempted to speak to the German doctors.

“This situation is outrageous,” she told journalists, breathing hard.

She said she wanted Navalny treated “in an independent hospital, whose doctors we trust”.

In this file photo taken on July 20, 2019 Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny speaks with journalists during a rally to support opposition and independent candidates after authorities refused to register them for September elections to the Moscow City Duma, Moscow. Maxim ZMEYEV / AFP

‘Play for time’
Navalny’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh claimed Russia’s refusal to evacuate Navalny was a ploy to “play for time” and make it impossible to trace poison, posing a “critical threat to his life”.

Advertisements

Regional police said they found traces of an industrial chemical after swabbing Navalny and his luggage, while suggesting it came from a disposable cup.

The air ambulance dispatched to take Navalny to Berlin for treatment landed in Omsk after Chancellor Angela Merkel extended an offer of treatment.

European Union leaders including Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have voiced concern for Navalny, who has faced repeated physical attacks and prosecutions in more than a decade of opposition to Russian authorities.

The EU spokesperson for foreign affairs and security policy, Nabila Massrali, said: “The Russian authorities are well aware we are closely watching this,” urging “his safe transfer and treatment”.

Advertisements

The US embassy in Moscow said in a tweet that if the poisoning claim proved true it would represent “a grave moment for Russia, and the Russian people deserve to see all those involved held to account”.

Navalny lost consciousness shortly after his plane took off on Thursday from Tomsk in Siberia, where he was working to support opposition candidates ahead of regional elections next month.

Yarmysh said he had seemed “absolutely fine” before boarding the flight and had only consumed a cup of tea at the airport.

She said she was sure he had suffered from an “intentional poisoning” and blamed Putin.

Advertisements

Navalny has made many enemies with his anti-corruption investigations, which often reveal the lavish lifestyles of Russia’s elite and attract millions of views online.

Previous poisonings
He has suffered physical attacks in the past, including a 2017 incident where he endured chemical burns to his eye after green dye was splashed on his face.

Last year Navalny said he suspected poisoning when he suffered rashes and his face became swollen while serving a short jail term after calling for illegal protests.

He has been the target of multiple criminal probes and spent numerous stretches in police cells for organising illegal protests, while his Anti-Corruption Foundation was regularly raided by police and investigators.

Advertisements

The latest incident follows several infamous poisonings of Kremlin critics in the past.

Britain named two Russian spies as suspects after Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok in the city of Salisbury in March 2018.

Former Russian security service agent Alexander Litvinenko was fatally poisoned with radioactive polonium in a cup of tea in London. Russia refused to extradite chief suspect Andrei Lugovoi, who became a nationalist MP after the 2006 attack.

Several other opposition figures have suffered severe illnesses in Russia that they blamed on poisoning.


#Newsworthy…

COVID-19: Russian energy minister test positive

Advertisements

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak has tested positive for the coronavirus, the country’s prime minister said Tuesday.

The announcement comes on the eve of a videoconference by the ministerial monitoring committee of OPEC and its allies in which Novak was due to take part.

“Unfortunately, Alexander Valentinovich Novak has been taken ill with the coronavirus”, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin told a government meeting in Blagoveshchensk, in Russia’s Far East, the Interfax news agency said.

He said Novak learned of the diagnosis after arriving in Blagoveshchensk where he was to take part in the meeting as well as the opening of a huge petro-chemical project near the Chinese border.

“He arrived and he has left for Moscow. With all our hearts, we wish him a recovery,” said Mishustin, who himself was diagnosed with the virus in April but has since recovered.

An energy minstry spokesperson said Novak would still participate in Wednesday’s videoconference of the so-called OPEC+ group which includes Russia, the RIA Novosti agency said.

Advertisements

It said several journalists accompanying the prime minister on the Far East tour, which began last week, have also tested positive for coronavirus and have been forced to return to Moscow.

Several Russian political figures have been infected with the virus in recent months, including Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov and some ministers and lawmakers.

Russia on Monday had officially recorded 927,745 infections, including 15,740 deaths from COVID-19.

President Vladimir Putin last week claimed that Russia had produced the world’s coronavirus vaccine, but the announcement was met with caution from scientists and the World Health Organization.


#Newsworthy…