As Jazz pointed out a couple of days ago, Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny is currently in a coma in a German hospital. Doctors there determined Navalny had been poisoned with cholinesterase inhibitors which can be found in pesticides and nerve agents. In short, he was poisoned by someone trying to kill him.
Back in Russia, the head doctor at the Siberian hospital where Navalny was first taken after his collapse on an airplane has claimed that he wasn’t poisoned. Instead, these very fine and not at all Kremlin influenced doctors said Navalny had a metabolic disease that caused low-blood sugar. In keeping with this bogus diagnosis, Russian prosecutors have now said they don’t see any crime that needs to be investigated:
The prosecutor general’s office said it saw no basis to open an inquiry after a preliminary investigation. Vladimir Putin’s press spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said there was little reason to act since a poisonous substance had not been discovered.
“Here, in this case, nothing has changed. We still, unfortunately, do not have an understanding of what caused the condition the patient is in now,” Peskov said, refusing to identify Navalny by name.
The Kremlin’s reluctance to open a meaningful investigation into Navalny’s apparent poisoning is hardly a surprise. On Tuesday Peskov dismissed accusations that Putin might be behind Navalny’s sudden illness as “empty noise”, “idle talk”, and not “serious”.
And that’s how things work in Russia. If you stand up to Putin, you get poisoned by one of Putin’s kill squads. And if you’re a doctor examining one of Putin’s victims you pretend he just has low blood sugar or your risk falling out a window under mysterious circumstances. So, really, I don’t blame the doctors in Russia for lying. What choice do they have?
Meanwhile, back in the real world, some of Navalny’s friends described what it is to align yourself with Navalny and against Putin in Russia.
Sergei Boiko drank tea with Alexei Navalny two days before he collapsed on his flight home from Siberia.
They met in Novosibirsk, where Mr Boiko is one of 33 people challenging pro-Kremlin candidates at next month’s local elections…
“There were people following us; many resources invested,” Mr Boiko tells me.
Whilst Alexei Navalny was in town, he says each of their cars was followed constantly. When the team moved about on foot, each person had their own, dedicated tail.
“It was from the start of the day to the end,” Mr Boiko says. “I think it was [the] secret service.”…
“As soon as I got involved, I realised how it would be,” says Vitaly Kolesnikov, recalling how days into his job as camera and video editor on Alexei Navalny’s anti-corruption investigations, his new boss was attacked with a green dye that burned his eye.
“Since then, I’ve been interrogated, threatened, had money stolen,” Mr Kolesnikov says. “It’s been quite a journey.”
There’s no doubt in my mind who was ultimately responsible for Navalny’s poisoning. Putin knows he can get away with this kind of extra-judicial terrorism precisely because there is no independent source of power in Russia to challenge him. And he’s clearly determined to keep it that way. That’s Putin’s real goal here, not simply to kill one critic but to frighten all of the others into silence.