August 28, 2020

Alexei Navalny Poisoned

“The Kremlin said on Tuesday it saw no need for now to investigate circumstances leading up to opposition politician Alexei Navalny’s grave illness, and that a German clinic’s initial diagnosis of poisoning was not yet conclusive… Navalny, an outspoken opponent of President Vladimir Putin, was airlifted to Germany for treatment on Saturday after collapsing on a plane while flying back to Moscow from Siberia.” Reuters

Both sides condemn Putin and his autocratic regime:

Mr Navalny’s bravery in prosecuting his anti-corruption crusade over the last decade cannot be overstated. He has been imprisoned on 13 occasions for organising anti-Putin protests, has endured physical attacks and was hospitalised after a mysterious ‘allergic attack’ last year. The day before he collapsed last week, a group of young supporters reportedly asked him: ‘Why aren’t you dead yet?’”
Editorial Board, The Guardian

“The Soviet-era secret services had a long tradition of exotic methods for murdering persons surreptitiously—most of them involving lethal substances and inventive delivery mechanisms… These assassination methods were developed in a special secret KGB laboratory—a dark, macabre, real-world version of the British intelligence services spy gadget factory from James Bond movies. Boris Yeltsin, the first post-Soviet era president of the new independent Russia, had the lab mothballed as a gesture of conciliation to the West…

“However, his successor, Vladimir Putin, made re-activating the lab one of his first official acts. In early 2000, the man who gave Putin his start in politics, former St. Petersburg mayor Anatoliy Sobchak, became victim number one on what is now a long list of Putin associates and enemies who died (or came close to it) after being poisoned.”
Reuben Johnson, The Bulwark

“The number of Kremlin critics who somehow encounter deadly toxins is rivaled only by the number of Russian dissenters who are mysteriously prone to falling out of open windows…

“With the escalating crisis in Belarus fueling anti-Putin demonstrations inside Russia, it is a particularly convenient time for Russia’s most prominent opposition figure to be incapacitated. Russia is, by all accounts, spooked by events in Belarus. And when a favorable status quo in Russia’s ‘Near Abroad’ is threatened, Moscow has a habit of engaging in reckless and destabilizing behaviors to preserve it. Navalny’s debilitation may, in fact, merely be a harbinger of events yet to come.”
Noah Rothman, Commentary Magazine

“Mr. Navalny’s exposés of corruption among the ‘crooks and robbers’ at the top, including a blistering YouTube documentary on the lavish properties, yachts and Tuscan vineyards owned by former prime minister and former president Dmitri Medvedev, earned him powerful enemies. Of late, he had been actively cheering on the ongoing protests in the city of Khabarovsk, and the anti-government demonstrations in Belarus…

“Mr. Putin has certainly shown no qualms about striking at foes at home and abroad. But it is equally possible that some other shadowy figure in the Russian kleptocracy decided to silence him… What is certain is that Mr. Putin, through his disdain for human rights and the rule of law, has set the tone for his nation, and has made it dangerous for anyone who dares rise up against corruption, lawlessness or injustice. Given the murky politics of the Kremlin, it may indeed be that Mr. Putin and his lieutenants did not order the hit on Mr. Navalny, who stands to become a bigger problem as a martyr than he was as a gadfly. But, as the Russian expression goes, ‘You cooked the kasha, you eat it.’”
Editorial Board, New York Times

“Abroad, Russia still wages war in the traditional sense, as many Syrians can attest. But it also uses ‘little green men’ — the Russian soldiers who appeared in Crimea without identifying insignia to lay the groundwork for Moscow’s annexation of the peninsula in 2014 — and sends so-called ‘military advisers’ to do the Kremlin’s bidding in places like Venezuela. It also uses mercenaries, such as the Wagner group, which dispatches hired-hands to do Russia’s unofficial fighting in places including the Central African Republic and Libya…

“Putin has purposely created an environment in Russia in which the state does not exercise a monopoly on violence — or put differently, the state exercises a monopoly on the ability to determine who is allowed to commit violence from within a range of state, quasi-state, and non-state actors… The main point about Navalny’s poisoning, of course, isn’t whether Putin’s finger prints are on it, but instead that Putin has created an environment in which people feel it is permissible to kill with impunity.”
Andrew Foxall, Spectator USA

“The Kremlin’s poisoning of Navalny is an admonition as well for the U.S., which remains in Putin’s crosshairs as we near the 2020 presidential election. If Putin felt vulnerable enough to poison Navalny, then we should expect him to increase the intensity of his attacks on our democracy — even at the risk of greater conflict between our nations. Now is the ideal opportunity to express solidarity with Navalny, while emphasizing our continued readiness to defend, deter and counter Russia’s nefarious interference in our domestic politics.”
Daniel N. Hoffman, The Hill

Other opinions below.

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From the Right

From the Left

Russian Activists’ Perspectives

“In recent years, Mr. Navalny’s undeniable leadership of the Russian opposition has also become a kind of sign of President Vladimir V. Putin’s stability. The unchanging leader of the regime is Vladimir Putin; the unchanging leader of the opposition is Aleksei Navalny. It was hard to imagine him being arrested or killed. But everything changes. If the Russian government has now decided to get rid of Mr. Navalny, that suggests it is constructing some new political configuration in which there is no longer a need for any kind of an opposition

“The problem is that the system in which you’re either for Mr. Putin or you die seems much more unstable than what came before it. Political terror precludes the possibility of political stability. The person least comfortable in a Navalny-free Russia is bound to be Mr. Putin himself.”
Oleg Kashin, New York Times

“Once the immediate crisis passes, there should also be long-term consequences. Under Putin, the perpetrators of attacks on opposition leaders — including, most prominently, the assassination of Boris Nemtsov in plain sight of the Kremlin, 2,000 days ago this week — will continue to be shielded from the highest level. But Putin will not be in power forever. For now, in the West, there should be no more talk of new ‘resets’ with a regime that speaks with its opponents in the language of bullets and poison.”
Vladimir Kara-Murza, Washington Post

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