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The Bundeswehr, the German military, has published findings that one of Putin’s domestic critics, Alexei Navalny was poisoned with a Russian government created nerve agent. It seems exotic poisons are a favorite of the old KGB colonel, who is not bothered in the least by the notoriety of repeated discoveries of high profile attacks, even on foreign soil. Then again, poison has long been a Russian security tool. This time, German Chancellor Merkel, who has been in bed with Putin for years, is publicly upset.
Alexie Navalny has been seen as the only serious and viable opponent to Putin’s perpetual rule. The Nation, a publication of the left, explains:
For many years, the anti-corruption crusader has offered the only serious challenge to President Vladimir Putin’s 20-year rule. According to the German government, Navalny was poisoned with Novichok, the same deadly nerve agent used in the UK against Russian double agent Sergey Skripal in 2018.
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Even the investigative work of his Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), Navalny’s muckraking initiative devoted to uncovering the misdeeds of politicians and oligarchs, became more socially conscious recently. After years of spotlighting graft and venality at the top of Russian politics—including revelations that Dmitry Medvedev owned a duck house on his estate and once bought 20 pairs of shoes in a day—Navalny turned his ire to corruption with more direct impact on citizens.
In late 2018, the FBK linked a dysentery outbreak in Moscow schools to several monopolistic catering companies allegedly owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close associate sometimes described as “Putin’s chef,” who also sponsors Russian mercenaries abroad. The report caused widespread outrage and led Prigozhin to file, and win, a USD 1.2 million lawsuit against the FBK. Facing financial ruin, in June, Navalny was forced to dissolve the organization.
Despite this setback, Navalny’s socially-orientated, regionally-inflected, and non-partisan approach has paid dividends. By removing the taint of tribalism and Moscow elitism, Navalny has succeeded where all other members of the liberal opposition have failed. Perhaps even more unexpectedly, he has built bridges with Russia’s large mass of disaffected people who do not identify as reformist at all—in particular, the supporters of the so-called systemic opposition.
What about the 2018 attack on Sergey Skripal and his daughter, an attack that ended up killing a remote bystander, an attack of such notoriety that it inspired a BBC three-part dramatization?
Charlie Rowley, 45, and Dawn Sturgess, 44, were rushed to Salisbury Hospital after they were found unconscious at a home in nearby Amesbury, Wilts on June 30, 2018.
Scotland Yard later confirmed Dawn Sturgess had died and police launched a murder probe.
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It is believed the couple picked up a perfume bottle that may have been discarded by the bungling assassins who tried to kill MI6 mole Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in March – almost four months prior.
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In September police revealed names and photos of two Russian men wanted over the attempted hit on the Skripals.
Cops issued a European Arrest Warrant for Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.
The CPS said there was enough evidence to charge them with conspiracy to murder.
The suspects were caught on CCTV in Salisbury at 11.58am on Sunday, March 4, “moments before the attack”, police said.
It is understood Petrov and Boshirov stayed in the City Stay Hotel in Bow, East London, during their time in the UK.
Boshirov’s real name is reportedly Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga, a 39-year-old soldier who served in both Chechnya and Ukraine.
A former Russian officer told Bellingcat that Chepiga’s high rank suggested the Novichok hit was ordered “at the highest level”.
Petrov was later revealed to be Dr Alexander Mishkin, a doctor in Russia’s military intelligence agency.
He travelled to Salisbury under the alias Alexander Petrov.
Mishkin was recruited into the GRU while undergoing his medical training.
Cops searching their room on May 4 – almost two months after the attack in Salisbury – are said to have discovered minute traces of Novichok.
Police said the nerve agent was brought into Britain in a Ninna Ricci Premier Jour perfume bottle with a specially made poison applicator.
The attack on Navalny was under more controlled conditions. It is only surprising that his supporters were able to get him out of Putin-controlled territory. Apparently it was deemed best not to have him die on Russian soil.
Mr Navalny, a prominent opposition leader in Russia, was airlifted to Berlin for treatment after falling ill during a flight in Russia’s Siberia region last month. He has been in a coma since. Now new toxicology reports from Germany have shown he was poisoned with the infamous chemical nerve agent previously used in the Salisbury poisonings.
Novichok is the name for a group of nerve agents created by scientists during the Soviet Union.
Designed to kill quickly and silently, Novichok kills by disrupting communication between nerves and muscles or nerves in the brain.
Its effects take hold within a matter of minutes, resulting in cardiac arrest or asphyxiation as the final cause of death.
Deutsche Welle (DW) is the publicly funded German news and opinion source. DW is reporting: “Merkel says Novichok poisoning of Russia’s Navalny was attempted murder.”
Angela Merkel said there was “shocking information” that showed “beyond a doubt” that the apparent poisoning of Alexei Navalny was “an attempted murder with nerve agent” after a toxicology test in Germany showed that the opposition leader had been targeted with Novichok.
Merkel said Navalny was “the victim of a crime intended to silence him.” She said the gravity of that fact made it important for her to “take a clear stance.”
The chancellor said the case raises “very serious questions that only the Russian government can answer — and must answer,” adding, “the world will wait for an answer.”
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The test was conducted in a special German military lab, according to the government spokesman Steffen Seibert.
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Navalny fell ill during a flight from Siberia to Moscow on August 20, after which his plane made an emergency landing in the Siberian city of Omsk and he was rushed to a local hospital where he went into coma. Two days later, after much diplomatic wrangling, Russian doctors allowed the opposition leader to be flown to Berlin, where he was treated at the city’s Charite Hospital.
He remains in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator in the Charite as of Wednesday afternoon. Doctors there say that his condition is critical though his life is no longer in danger.
Navalny will not be the last victim of a Russian ruler’s poison-dispensing agents. The New York Times, because it is pretending to oppose Russia at the moment, tells some rare truth:
The Soviet Union operated a secret laboratory to research tasteless and untraceable poisons that were tested on condemned gulag prisoners, security service defectors have said.
After a series of assassinations and attempted assassinations of dissidents, journalists, defectors and opposition leaders in Russia and abroad over the past two decades, researchers have concluded the post-Soviet government has turned to its poison arsenal as a preferred weapon.
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Lacing a meal or a cup of tea — the last substance Mr. Navalny is said to have consumed at an airport cafe before falling ill — with poison is simple and requires no special training, Gennadi V. Gudkov, a former opposition member of Parliament and onetime colonel in the K.G.B., said in a telephone interview on Thursday.
“It is easy, and easy to cover your tracks,” he said. “Any person can use poison.” Poisons can be intended either to kill or to incapacitate a person with a long and unpleasant illness, he said.
With the announcement by British police on Wednesday that a former Russian spy was poisoned by a nerve agent, Sergei Skripal joins the long ranks of those who have run afoul of the Kremlin and subsequently fallen ill or died under what can only be described as suspicious circumstances.
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Far and away the most famous example of an assassination by poison is Alexander Litvinenko. The dissident Russian spy was killed in 2006 when he ingested polonium-210, a highly radioactive substance, that had been slipped into his tea.
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The Russian opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza holds a distinction he would probably like to do without: He has survived attempted assassination by poison not once, but twice.
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In September 1978, [dissident Bulgarian writer] Georgi Markov was waiting for the bus near London’s Waterloo Bridge when a man jabbed him in the leg with an umbrella. He immediately fell ill and was rushed to the hospital.
The umbrella, as it turned out, was tipped with a pellet filled with ricin, the toxin produced from the castor plant.
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In 2002 . . . Chechen rebel leader Khattab opened a letter that would be his last. It contained what is believed to have been a lethal dose of sarin or one of its derivatives, likely planted by Kremlin operatives.
Shortly after his death, the FSB announced that Khattab, whose real name was Samir Saleh Abdullah, had been killed in a “special operation.”
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In the heat of the 2004 presidential election in Ukraine, then-candidate Viktor Yushchenko suddenly fell ill and disappeared from the campaign trail. When he reappeared, his face was disfigured, the result of what his doctors described as a near-fatal dose of dioxin.
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In November 2012, the businessman Alexander Perepilichny went for a run in his posh gated compound in London. After running about a hundred feet, he collapsed and died.
Perepilichny had handed over evidence to Swiss investigators probing allegations of massive fraud by Russian authorities on an investment fund, Hermitage, controlled by the American businessman Bill Browder.
While the exact circumstances of his death remain unclear, investigators discovered trace amounts of a rare, toxic flower, gelsemium, in Perepilichny’s stomach.
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Karinna Moskalenko was due to return to Moscow in 2008 from Strasbourg to attend a trial examining the murder of one of her best-known clients — the journalist Anna Politkovskaya.
Moskalenko delayed her return to Moscow after feeling ill — with intense headaches and a strange giddiness. Moskalenko and her husband soon found liquid-metal pellets — likely mercury — under a seat of their car.
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Politkovskaya, who won countless enemies for her coverage of the Russian invasion of Chechnya, was attempting to travel to North Ossetia in 2004 to help negotiate during a school siege in Beslan. She boarded a flight, but promptly fell ill after drinking some tea that she believed contained poison.
Sky News explains the benefit to Putin of poisoning former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko. on foreign soil where the cause can be traced.
In 2016, a 10-year UK public inquiry concluded that in all probability the two men [Litvinenko] met, Andrey Lugavoy and Dmitri Kovtun, were Russian agents and in all likelihood assassinated Mr Litvinenko with the knowledge of Russian President, Vladimir Putin.
In doing so they effectively sent a clear message to anyone who fancied following Mr Litvinenko and defecting to the West – they would be tracked down and killed using the most unpleasant poisons the Soviets had ever managed to create.
Merkel has presided over the gutting of the German military from its 1980s peak as a potent part of NATO to a threadbare international joke. She has steadfastly refused to push through defense budgets that even come up to the modest 2% GDP pledge by all NATO members. She has concluded a deal with Putin to get natural gas through a new North Sea pipeline, Nord Stream 2, that bypasses Ukraine and the rest of Central/Eastern Europe. The intent is to leave the nations between Germany and Russia to Putin’s mercy, while keeping the old NATO countries, especially Germany, supplied with natural gas. This became critical when Merkel agreed to shut down all nuclear power plants, and to try to shut down all coal power plants.
Despite U.S. pressure, Merkel has continued to push for completion of this strategic attack on NATO and the nations between Germany and Russia, an old story last involving Uncle Joe and Adolf. While Merkel is publicly feigning outrage about Putin attempting to murder another opponent, her government says this will have no effect on Nord Stream 2. Russia Today, Putin’s press instrument, has fun with the story:
Merkel was referring to tests carried out the by the Bundeswehr [German military] which found that the anti-corruption campaigner was “beyond doubt” poisoned with a ‘Novichok’ class chemical agent. Describing Navalny as “the leading opposition politician in Russia,” an assertion not borne out by Russian polling, she said somebody wanted to “silence” him.
The Chancellor added that Moscow “must answer”, adding “I want to use this opportunity to express my sympathy to Alexey Navalny.” She said she had already held a phone conversation with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and before that – a joint meeting with the ministers of finance, justice, defense and the interior.
Earlier, a government spokesman said Berlin believes that it is wrong to link the Nord Stream 2 project with the Navalny incident. Ulrike Demmer referred to the words of Merkel herself, who said last week that the gas pipeline should be completed. “From the Chancellor’s point of view, it would be inappropriate to link this project, which is being implemented on the part of business, with the situation around Navalny.”
So, we may be sure that Germany, and her western European partners, will do nothing of substance, nothing to jeopardize business with Russia. Presenting results from a Bundeswehr laboratory lets everyone in on the hollowness of the outrage. Yet, Merkel, who was on the way out of power before the Chinese virus arrived in Europe, now can likely stay if she wants.
Germans, answering a new poll appear the least affected, by far, of any people in Europe by the virus and govern response to the virus. Fewer know anyone who has been sick, or died, or even became unemployed due to the coronavirus and government response. Even if you do not read German, the charts are clear in the More in Common Corona-Pandemie study.
In European comparison, for Germans COVID19 is abstract phenomenon:
only 11% personally know a person who contracted COVID19 and only 5% know someone who died. And fewer than in other countries (13%) know somebody who lost work/job because of pandemic. pic.twitter.com/NO5IiDFNO1
— Thorsten Benner (@thorstenbenner) September 2, 2020