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Navalny Posts Photo In Park After Discharge, As Russia Denies Developing Novichok

By RFE/RL September 23, 2020

Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny has been discharged from the Berlin hospital where he was being treated for what Germany has said is a case of poisoning with a Soviet-style nerve agent.

The 44-year-old anti-corruption campaigner posted on social media a picture of himself sitting on a park bench in the German capital after being released, adding that while he still doesn't have full use of his left hand, he has started learning how to regain his balance by standing on one leg.

Hours later, Moscow denied that Russia or the Soviet Union had ever developed or made the family of nerve agents at the center of the international findings, Novichok, despite decades of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Navalny fell violently ill aboard a Moscow-bound flight on August 20 originating in the Siberian city of Tomsk, where he was carrying out his latest investigation into state corruption. Days later, he was airlifted to Berlin for treatment.

"The first time they put me in front of a mirror after 24 days in intensive care (of which 16 were in a coma), a character from the movie 'The Lord of the Rings' looked back at me and I can tell you, it was not an elf at all," Navalny said in the post.

"I was terribly upset: I thought that I would never be discharged. But the doctors continued to do their miracle," he added.

Navalny said he will continue to do physiotherapy, while doctors from the Charite hospital in Berlin said in a statement on September 23 that based on his "progress and current condition," physicians believe that a "complete recovery is possible."

"However, it remains too early to gauge the potential long-term effects of his severe poisoning," the statement cautioned.

German authorities have said tests in Germany, France, and Sweden have determined Navalny was poisoned by a chemical agent from the Novichok group of bioweapons.

German authorities have said tests in Germany, France, and Sweden have determined Navalny was poisoned with a chemical agent from the Novichok group.

French President Emmanuel Macron on September 22 demanded a "swift and flawless" explanation from Moscow for the poisoning during his speech to the 75th-annual United Nations General Assembly.

Several other countries in the West have also demanded an explanation from Russia, but Moscow has declined to open an investigation so far, saying it has yet to see evidence of a crime.

The Russian Foreign Ministry, which has accused the West of a "disinformation" campaign in the case, said on September 23 that its pre-investigative probe of the case cannot be completed without data from Berlin.

It also said there cannot be any "Russian trace" of evidence.

It also claimed -- improbably -- that the Novichok nerve agent was never developed or produced in either Russia or the Soviet Union.

They are banned under the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1997 and have never been shown to have been used on the battlefield.

But they were used in the 2018 poisoning of a former Soviet intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter by suspected Russian agents in Salisbury, England.

Their development has been attributed to the Soviet State Scientific Institute of Organic Chemistry and Technology, which was jointly run by the Soviet military and the KGB, during the 1970s and 1980s.

In addition to foreign intelligence agencies, Russian scientists in the past have come forward to discuss Novichok's development.

Separately, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov repeated its demand to see evidence collected by the Germans.

"We aren't inclined to reject anything, we only want to be certain and understand what's going on, so as to compare. In order to compare, be
convinced, and understand, we need to have information, which we, unfortunately, are currently being denied," Peskov said.

Russia's permanent representative to the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Aleksandr Shulgin, said on September 23 that Moscow had sent a note to Germany's mission to the OPCW demanding information on the Navalny case.

The Kremlin, which also has denied any involvement in the attack, said the anti-corruption crusader "is free" to return to Russia whenever he pleases.

Peskov also addressed a recent article in the French newspaper Le Monde, saying the report that President Vladimir Putin told his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, in a recent conversation that perhaps Navalny had poisoned himself had many inaccuracies.

He did, however, confirm that the Navalny case was discussed between the two leaders.

Navalny was medically airlifted to Germany at the request of his wife following a medical tussle with Russian doctors who said he was too sick to travel.

He emerged earlier this month from a medically induced coma as his condition slowly improved.

German doctors say the military-grade nerve agent Novichok was found both inside his body and on his skin.

Navalny said in a post on his website on September 21 that the 30-day deadline for Russian police to conduct their "pre-investigative check" into what he called his attempted murder by poisoning has expired. He demanded that the Russian side return articles of clothing taken when he was hospitalized there.

Experts say the clothes he had on could help any investigation into the poisoning.

Navalny's team has said a water bottle removed from his hotel room in the city of Tomsk after he fell ill had been taken to Germany and found to contain traces of the nerve agent.

Peskov has said that is "absurd."

Navalny was attacked with a green dye by unknown assailants in Russia in 2017, leaving him with permanent damage to his vision.

Two years later, he suddenly fell ill while in Russian detention with what Russian doctors said was a severe allergic reaction but which he and his team insisted was an intentional poisoning. That case still has not been solved.

With reporting by Interfax and TASS

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/macron- demands-russian-answers-in-navalny- poisoning-citing-red-lines-on- chemical-weapons-/30853168.html

Copyright (c) 2020. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.



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