From poisoning to imprisonment of Alexei Navalny – Kremlin critic continues to be held ‘hostage’ of Vladimir Putin
After a 6-month stay in Germany to recover from the Novichok poisoning, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on January 17, 2021 was arrested by authorities at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.
The Russian Prisons Authority (FSIN) had demanded that Navalny replace the suspended sentence in the Yves Rocher case with effective imprisonment.
“Vladimir Putin is so furious that I survived his poisoning that he ordered the FSIN to go to court and demand that my probation be commuted to an effective sentence. Despite the fact that my probation ended on December 30 ”, Navalny had declared.
As expected, a court in Moscow in February 2021, sentenced the Kremlin critic to three and a half years for violating the alleged conditional sentence.
The European Court of Human Rights has called for the “immediate” release of the Russian opposition politician, a request that was quickly rejected by the Russian government.
His arrest had caused many members of the opposition to go to the streets of major Russian cities to protest for Navalny’s release. However, the Russian authorities, in order to suppress this protest, had arrested thousands of his supporters. Arrests had also been made of accomplices, including lawyer Lyubov Sobol and Alexei’s brother, Oleg Navalny.
Two more Navalny associates – Leonid Volkov and Ivan Zhdanov – have been added to the Russian list of “extremists and terrorists” and their property has been blocked.
On August 20, 2020, while returning from the Siberian city of Tomsk to Moscow, Navalny began to feel ill.
The plane with which he flew landed urgently in Omsk, as he suddenly began to feel unwell after drinking a cup of tea. Although he was treated at a hospital in the city of Omsk, Russian authorities had said no poison had been found in the body of the opposition politician.
Shortly afterwards, activists in Germany sent a plane to bring Navalny to Berlin in order to receive better treatment.
German doctors evacuated the 45-year-old, at the request of his wife and allies, who said they feared Russian authorities might hide information about how he fell ill.
In Navalny’s case, the European Union had increased pressure on Russia.
The EU’s foreign policy chief, Joseph Borrell, said: “We expect Moscow to clear up the case without delay. The Russian people, but also the international community want to know the reasons. Those who are responsible must be brought to justice.”
The G7 foreign ministers also condemned the poisoning of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s critic.
“We, the Foreign Ministers of the G7: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Great Britain and the United States of America and the High Representative of the European Union, are united in our condemnation, in the strongest terms for Alexei Navalny ‘s confirmed poisoning,” the G7 foreign ministers said in a statement.
Navalny’s poisoning with Novichok was also confirmed by two laboratories, one in France and the other in Sweden, that the Soviet nerve agent had been used to poison the Russian opposition leader.
Even the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had confirmed that Navalny had been poisoned with Novichok.
“Substances in his blood as well as in urine, had similar structural characteristics as toxic chemicals belonging to the Novichok group,” the OPCW had announced.
A joint investigation between Bellingcat, The Insider, Der Spiegel and CNN has uncovered clues implicating Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) in the poisoning of the politician Navalny.
The poisoning, which occurred in August 2020, appears to have occurred after years of oversight, which began in 2017 shortly after Navalny first announced his intention to run for president of Russia.
The investigation has identified at least 15 operatives who appear to be working within this clandestine subunit of the Institute of Criminology and Poisons at the FSB. At least eight of them were in close contact at various stages of the operation, who traveled with Navalny to Novosibirsk and then pursued him to the city of Tomsk where he was eventually poisoned.
Following this scandal, Navalny had published the details of the operation for his assassination attempt by the Russian FSB.
Navalny had testified that he had deceived one of the FSB officers by describing the details of the operation. He identified Konstantin Kudryavtsev as one of the suspected agents of the FSB Institute of Criminology and Poisons.
At a time when public opinion polls showed declining support for pro-President Putin parties ahead of the September 2021 election, the Kremlin had begun implementing a new “clearing the field” campaign strategy of potential challengers.
Following Navalny’s arrest and sentencing, Moscow has stepped up pressure on other potential opponents, real or perceived.
Putin’s “secret” palace
During his detention, the team of the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) founded by Navalny discovered information about a very luxurious property on the Black Sea coast of Russia, used as a personal “palace” by Vladimir Putin.
According to Navalny, this building and the land around it are registered in the ownership of the Russian FSB, which claims to use this property for “research and educational activities”.
Research on Putin’s $ 1.3 billion palace was the most popular YouTube video for 2021 in Russia.
According to the platform, this video has been viewed about 120 million times.
The video helped spark nationwide protests calling for Navalny’s release. In the protests, which were not authorized, Russian authorities arrested thousands of people.
European lawmakers have chosen Navalny as the winner of the annual Sakharov Prize for 2021, which is awarded for Freedom of Thought. / The Geopost /