The Navalny Poisoning #83

Deepnews Digest #83

The Navalny Poisoning

Editor: Christopher Brennan
Alexei Navalny, Russia’s most prominent opposition politician, is as of the sending of this newsletter in a coma at a Berlin hospital, which said that he was likely poisoned with a deadly nerve agent. This week’s Digest digs into Novichok, the poisoning, how we got to this point, as well as what the response may be. For a story with international ramifications that are just now unfolding, our algorithm pulled in pieces from all over the world that you might have missed.
Editor’s note
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Published every Friday

Meduza

Highly toxic, but unreliable ‘Meduza’ answers key questions about Novichok-type nerve agent poisoning

On September 2, German officials announced that prominent opposition figure Alexey Navalny had been poisoned in Russia with a substance from the Novichok group of nerve agents. Traces of the poison were found through tests conducted at a toxicology lab run by Germany’s armed forces (the Bundeswehr), at the request of doctors from the Charité Hospital in Berlin, where Navalny is being treated in intensive care. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said there are no doubts about the accuracy of the test results. “This is shocking information about the attempted murder by poison of one of Russia’s main oppositionists,” Merkel said. This announcement from the German government provoked a number of new questions about Navalny’s poisoning — “Meduza” answers some of the main ones.

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Der Spiegel

Russian Patient: The Kremlin, Belarus and the Attack on Alexei Navalny

Navalny is thought to have been in Novosibirsk to investigate members of the United Russia party in the Siberian city – all of whom are active in the local construction industry, where there have been numerous corruption scandals. They reportedly have close ties with the former deputy regional director of the FSB, who now heads the FSB in Tomsk. Navalny is said to have been kept under close surveillance while in the city, his last stop before continuing on to Tomsk. “They follow us on foot, tail us with entire convoys of cars, each of us tailed by two or three cars,” Navalny staffer Georgy Alburov said in a video on a local YouTube channel. “And they try to watch where we were going. What we are doing. They filmed us secretly.”

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Editor’s Note:

While many North American and European outlets originally had their Russia correspondents covering the story, it is also now a German one. Here our algorithm highlighted an in-depth look from Der Spiegel, who often republish their biggest stories in English, at how Navalny was transferred to Berlin. – Christopher Brennan, Editor

Financial Times ($)

Who wanted Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny dead?

Alexei Navalny’s visit to Siberia last week went like most of the trips he has taken across the country to galvanise anger against Russian president Vladimir Putin. Russia’s most popular opposition leader posed for selfies with supporters, took a dip in the Tom river, and evaded a conspicuous tail from Russian secret services.

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Washington Post

Trolls, tracking and films: How Putin’s Russia obsessively hounded opposition leader Navalny

2011: Alexei Navalny leads protests over disputed parliamentary elections and was arrested with hundreds of others, serving 15 days in prison. Navalny’s arrest made him Russia’s most visible opposition figure. After his release, he addressed a Dec. 24 rally of more than 60,000 people, calling Putin’s United Russia party a network of “crooks and thieves.”

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Radio Free Europe

‘It’s A Whole New Situation’: Russia’s Liberal Opposition Determined To Keep Fighting During Navalny’s Absence

Much of the Russian electorate is still seething over a package of constitutional amendments that were foisted on the country this spring, and could pave the way for President Vladimir Putin to remain in power until 2036. And anger against the ruling United Russia party over a reviled reform that raised retirement ages has not abated.

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Meduza

‘It’s possible that I created it myself’ Chemical weapons experts explain who is capable of making ‘Novichok’ poisons and why their lethality makes them weapons to kill, not maim

On September 2, the German government announced that Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny was poisoned with a Novichok-type nerve agent. At a press conference on Wednesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel stated unequivocally that Navalny is the victim of a crime, and added that she believes someone tried to “silence” him. As the Kremlin insists that the West is jumping to conclusions, the public response has turned to questions about responsibility for the attack. Does the use of a nerve agent mean that Russia’s intelligence community is to blame? Meduza asked three chemical weapons experts what they think.

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Editor’s Note:

The results from German analysis of Navalny led to the reappearance of a word that news observers have seen before, Novichok. Here our model pulled out a Meduza feature that speaks to chemical experts including one of Novichok’s original developers. – Christopher Brennan, Editor

Sydney Morning Herald

Beware the tea: Why do Russians keep being poisoned?

The Kremlin’s foes have a much higher chance of succumbing to rare poisons than the general population. Why? Who poisoned Alexei Navalny? And what does it mean for Russia?

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New York Times

Navalny Poisoning Raises Pressure on Merkel to Cancel Russian Pipeline

BRUSSELS — Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany has long defended her decision to go ahead with an $11 billion Russian gas pipeline, sticking to her position that politics and business should remain separate.

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YouGov

John Humphrys – Is Russia Running Rings Round the West?

German authorities announced on Wednesday that there was now ‘unequivocal proof’ that Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition figure who collapsed on an internal Russian flight last month and was subsequently flown to Berlin for treatment, had been poisoned by the nerve agent, novichok. Few people had doubted that Mr Navalny had been poisoned, but the confirmation that novichok was the poison seemed to point the finger unambiguously at who was responsible for the poisoning: the Kremlin. That’s because novichok isn’t any old poison but a military-grade weapon that only the Russian state or those close to it has access to. The West has promptly reacted in a united chorus of outrage. But that, so far, is all it has done and many people believe that, as with many other Russian actions condemned by the West, such as the takeover of Crimea and more recently President Putin’s support for the authoritarian regime in neighbouring Belarus, the West will prove itself to be all talk and no action. So is Vladimir Putin running rings round the West and, if so, what if anything should we do about it?

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The Globe and Mail ($)

The Kremlin, predictably, says it didn’t poison Alexey Navalny. So what can the West do?

The only predictable part of the drama surrounding the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny – an attack that German scientists say was carried out using the nerve agent Novichok – has been the Kremlin’s denial that it had anything to do with it.

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The Guardian

Using novichok against Navalny is a Russian message of menace

World leaders can be in little doubt: the evidence leads directly to Moscow and Putin

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The Nation

As Alexei Navalny’s Life Hangs in the Balance So Does the Fate of the Russian Opposition

The Russian opposition leader’s unique gift for uniting disparate people, ideas, and movements undoubtedly helped make him a target.

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Editor’s Note:

The story of Navalny’s poisoning is one that of course has an impact for Russia’s political system beyond international reaction. While the opposition is more complex than many accounts from foreign journalists in Russia sometimes portray, here Vadim Nikitin looks at the role of Navalny within it. – Christopher Brennan, Editor

The Times (UK) ($)

Mass expulsion of Russian spies would be a true deterrent for Putin

For the West to maintain any deterrent against the Kremlin after the novichok poisoning of Alexei Navalny, experts believe that governments must order a mass expulsion of Russian intelligence officers.

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Yale Daily News

“A human tragedy”: Yale affiliates condemn alleged poisoning of Russian politician

Just days after Russian politician and anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny fell ill from suspected poisoning, more than 100 University affiliates signed a statement in late August urging the Russian government to fully investigate the assault against a former Yale World Fellow.

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The Moscow Times

The West Is Outraged By Navalny’s Novichok Poisoning. That’s No Guarantee of Tough Sanctions

Looming U.S. elections and disparate EU interests could translate into a symbolic response.

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New York Times

Alexei Navalny: He who the Kremlin must not name

Another source of their anger, he says, was that the security services, despite years of hunting, could never find any compromising material on him.

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Deutsche Welle

Merkel says Navalny poisoning was attempted murder

Germany’s Chancellor Merkel called the Navalny case “attempted murder with a nerve agent” adding that she expected Moscow to explain its position. Navalny was flown to Berlin for treatment after falling ill in Russia.

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Associated Press

Attempts to halt Kremlin critic Navalny have failed so far

He’s been jailed repeatedly and twice put on trial for embezzlement and fraud. He’s been put under house arrest and splashed in the face with green antiseptic, damaging his sight. He was hospitalized last year for a suspected poisoning while in custody. His brother was jailed for over three years on fraud charges.

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POLITICO

EU should pull support for Nord Stream 2, says German leadership hopeful

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s potential successor calls for ‘a strong European answer, which Putin understands.’

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Editor’s Note:

In addition to existing sanctions on Russian officials and companies, some are calling for more forceful action from the EU. Here POLITICO does a write up on some of the pipeline politics, mentioned in several of the articles this week. – Christopher Brennan, Editor

CNN

Who’s standing up to Russia on Navalny poisoning? Not America

With the German government’s announcement Wednesday of “unequivocal evidence” that the nerve agent Novichok was used in the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, we are once again reminded how a vacuum in global leadership — notably, in this instance, the silence of the American President — can potentially open the way for the world’s strongmen to reach for the deadliest means to silence their critics.

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