The Department of Transport of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for the Siberian Federal District reported on Thursday on the interim results of a preliminary check on the fact of the emergency hospitalization of Alexei Navalny in Omsk. The police said that the Omsk airport, where the plane urgently landed after Mr Navalny became ill, had previously received a message about mining from a server located in Germany. In this regard, the Ministry of Internal Affairs opened a criminal case. The police also doubted that the employees of the Anti-Corruption Foundation could take a bottle to Germany, on which later German doctors found traces of poison. The transport police report appeared two days after the publication of a report by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), from which it follows that Alexei Navalny was poisoned with a Novichok-class substance not included in the Annex to the Chemical Weapons Convention. Russia does not agree with the conclusions of the OPCW and is waiting for the experts of the organization to conduct an investigation. The UN earlier confirmed the appeal of Mr. Navalny to the special rapporteurs on extrajudicial reprisals and freedom of speech and said that they had begun an investigation into his poisoning.
The transport police said that on August 20, when the plane with Alexei Navalny made an emergency landing at the Omsk airport, there was a message about mining. Recall, for the first time this became known from the recordings of the negotiations between the pilot of the aircraft and the air traffic controllers published on the Internet. From it it came out that the message arrived five minutes before landing. Then this information was confirmed by the representative of the Omsk airport Galina Gavrish. On Thursday, the transport police said that the message about the mining was sent through a mail service, whose servers are located in Germany. In this regard, the Tomsk Line Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs opened a criminal case on knowingly false reporting of an act of terrorism and sent four requests for legal assistance to Germany and one to France, but has not yet received a response. The police are working out the version according to which the threat was supposed to prevent the landing of the plane with the oppositionist in need of emergency hospitalization.
Sergei Potapov, deputy head of the transport police department of Omsk, said that “information about the mining of the airport was not disclosed,” so it is not clear to him how Mr. Navalny, who was in Germany, learned about him.
The police also have “many questions” for Alexei Navalny’s associates who refuse to testify, in particular, FBK employee Maria Pevchikh: she took a bottle of water to Germany, on which German scientists found traces of a poisonous substance. Mr. Potapov insists that during the pre-flight search, the bottle was not found in Mrs. Singers’ belongings – the policeman believes that she bought it at the airport after the search.
Earlier, the head of the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) Ivan Zhdanov said that the police had already interviewed all the participants in the events (in total, the police interviewed more than 230 people who had contact with Mr. Navalny during his trip to Siberia), but the investigation did not initiate a case, extending the pre-investigation check in violation of the legal deadlines, therefore “no FBK employee will testify again”. The FBK published a video in which Mr. Navalny’s associates seize water bottles and other items from his room in Tomsk to transport them to Germany. Maria Pevchikh said that the participants of the search divided the seized items among themselves and secretly took them abroad to transfer them for research, because they feared that in Russia the evidence of Mr. Navalny’s poisoning could be destroyed. Alexei Navalny himself said in an interview with Yuri Dudyu that everything removed from his issue was transferred to German doctors in order to help them in his recovery. Telegram channel Mash previously published an X-ray of a suitcase allegedly belonging to Maria Pevchikh, on which a bottle cap is visible. Companions of Mr. Navalny called the message of the Ministry of Internal Affairs absurd. The head of the regional headquarters of Alexei Navalny, Leonid Volkov, wrote that the police “investigated for a month and a half what Pevchikh herself told in an interview,” referring to her interview with the BBC.
Note that the message of the Ministry of Internal Affairs followed two days after the publication of the OPCW’s findings about the poisoning of Alexei Navalny with a Novichok-class cholinesterase inhibitor.
The message does not name the exact formula of the substance, but it says that the politician was exposed to a substance of this group, which is not included in the annex to the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, updated in this part in 2019. One of the developers of Novichok, Vladimir Uglev, explained to Kommersant that the substance described by the OPCW differs from the already known and banned substances in less danger to others and can be used internally or cutaneously – this, he said, can explain the symptoms that are not recorded during poisoning with other poisons of this group. Earlier, another developer of Novichok, Leonid Rink, argued that the symptoms of Alexei Navalny and the absence of other victims confirm that he could not have been poisoned by Novichok.
In an interview with journalist Yuri Dudyu, Alexey Navalny suggested that he was poisoned through the skin – for example, when touching objects in a hotel room. Laboratories in three countries confirmed the conclusion that the politician was poisoned with a Novichok-class substance, Mr. Navalny reminds, thus, we are talking about the use of chemical weapons, and Alexei Navalny blames the FSB and SVR for his poisoning, which, in his opinion, could have done this with knowledge of Vladimir Putin.
Russia’s Permanent Representative to the OPCW, Alexander Shulgin, commenting on the organization’s report, said that “Russia owes nothing to anyone,” since foreign countries “unsubstantiatedly assert that Russia is allegedly guilty of” poisoning “Navalny. The diplomat called on Germany to submit materials and physical evidence of the crime.
The publication of the report inevitably sparked a discussion of the introduction of various sanctions against Russia by the West.
Note that Alexei Navalny announced the ineffectiveness of sanctions against Russia as a whole, but suggested introducing them personally against the close circle of the Russian president, oligarchs and supporters of Vladimir Putin – among them, in his interview with Bild, he named, for example, conductor Valery Gergiev. Germany and France have come forward with proposals for sanctions against the Russian Federation in connection with the poisoning of Alexei Navalny; this proposal has already been supported by the Netherlands. Note, the Foreign Minister of the Federal Republic of Germany Heiko Maas emphasized on Thursday that this is not about “Russian-German consequences”, but about a reaction to a violation of an international agreement on the prohibition of chemical weapons, therefore, the reaction can only be international. For its part, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that Berlin and Paris had decided to “lead an anti-Russian coalition” in order to support the “behind-the-scenes intrigues of the West.” The Foreign Ministry called the OPCW’s report “a continuation of the fantastic story” planned “at the suggestion of Berlin by its Euro-Atlantic allies” and promised to provide Western countries with a chronology of their “behind-the-scenes manipulations.”
Press Secretary of the Russian President Dmitry Peskov said that Russia “sincerely wants to establish the circumstances” of the incident with Mr. Navalny, and noted that the authorities are waiting for OPCW experts who will be able to see in Russia “what they need.” The OPCW has already confirmed that they will come to Russia to conduct an investigation. Mr. Peskov added that the information published by the OPCW is of a general nature and the Russian side is “waiting for specifics.” He also stressed that Moscow is a responsible party to the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and is not developing it. The head of the Foreign Intelligence Service, Sergei Naryshkin, said that the destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles in the Russian Federation was “recorded”, and its production in the country was “disinformation.” Mr. Naryshkin called the absence of poisons in the body of Alexei Navalny in samples taken in Russia “an indisputable fact”. He called the accusations made by the oppositionist against the SVR “stupid Russophobic propaganda.”
In turn, Mr. Navalny called the statements of Russian doctors that he had no signs of poisoning when he was admitted to the Omsk emergency hospital as a lie.
The FBK on Thursday demanded that the FSB initiate a case on the development, production and stockpiling of chemical weapons (Article 355 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation), and Alexei Navalny previously appealed to UN special rapporteurs on extrajudicial reprisals and freedom of speech with a request to investigate his poisoning. The UN confirmed that an investigation has begun.
Alexei Navalny on Thursday confirmed his intention to return to Russia after rehabilitation. Political analyst Pavel Salin believes that the poisoning incident has increased the recognition of the oppositionist in the world and in Russia, and his return is not beneficial to the Russian authorities. He assumes that the pressure on the supporters of Alexei Navalny in Russia will increase, the authorities will try to “block the activities of the FBK” and “weaken the position of Alexei Navalny inside the country as much as possible.” Political strategist Grigory Kazankov emphasizes that, despite the large number of statements from different sides, there is a strong lack of information in the story with Alexei Navalny: “There are no pictures, no formula of the substance. One gets the feeling that various forces are trying to use this situation for their own purposes. ” Political scientist Dmitry Gusev talks about an information war, during which “all the arguments of the Russian side are rejected”, and as a result Europe will try to impose new sanctions against the Russian Federation, and imposing retaliatory sanctions, in his opinion, is unproductive – it is better to “find a common language.”
What is known about the state of Alexei Navalny, its likely causes and consequences