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The Kremlin Line Never Changed: Whatever Happens to Navalny, the West Did It

Alexey Navalny Support rally in Tbilisi, Georgia. February 16, 2024.
Alexey Navalny Support rally in Tbilisi, Georgia. February 16, 2024.

From the time he first emerged as a threat to the rule of President Vladimir Putin, Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was subjected to an unremitting series of attacks from Russian authorities, ranging from dubious prosecutions to a well-documented poisoning.

In each case, authorities in Moscow sought to deflect the blame onto the United States and its Western allies – a pattern they continued following reports of Navalny’s death on Friday.

On August 20, 2020, Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny fell into a coma aboard a passenger plane flying from the Russian city of Tomsk to Moscow, forcing his flight to make an emergency landing in the city of Omsk, where he was hospitalized. He was subsequently airlifted to Germany.

Navalny’s spokeswoman said he was poisoned, possibly by a cup of tea he drank at a Tomsk airport cafe. And while the Russian doctors who treated him in Omsk said there was “no trace” of poison in his blood or urine, the German doctors who subsequently treated him said their tests showed he had been poisoned.

In September 2020, German officials said there was “unequivocal proof” Navalny had been poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok, a Soviet-era chemical weapon.

In December 2020, an investigation conducted jointly conducted by U.K.-based investigative website Bellingcat and Russia’s investigative website The Insider, in cooperation with Germany’s Der Spiegel and CNN, concluded that a special team from Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) had poisoned Navalny using Novichok.

That same month, President Vladimir Putin, during his annual year-end news conference, brushed away the Bellingcat/The Insider allegations, saying that if the FSB had targeted Navalny, it would have “finished the job”:

“This is not some kind of investigation; this is the legalization of materials from the American special services,” Putin said. “That means in this case the patient of the Berlin clinic [Navalny] is supported by US intelligence services.”

Putin’s spin found echoes in some of the initial comments by Russian officials after it was announced Friday (February 16) that the 47-year-old anti-corruption crusader had died at the harsh Arctic Circle prison camp he was transferred to last December.

In a post on Telegram, Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, wrote:

“The cause will be determined by forensic experts and the investigation.

But when, without waiting for results, accusations and statements from politicians and heads of unfriendly states sound like carbon copies, the question must first be answered: who benefits from Navalny’s death today?

Absolutely obvious:

📌those who imposed more than 19 thousand sanctions against Russia, aiming to tear its economy to shreds;

📌those who are losing the war in Ukraine;

📌those who are not supported by their own population and have no chance of winning elections, but at the same time want to retain power by any means;

📌those who are eager to seize the gold and foreign exchange resources of our country;

📌those who want to destroy Russia are doing everything to stop its development.

All of them, their names are well known: from the Secretary General of NATO and the US leadership to [German Chancellor Olaf] Scholz, [United Kingdom Prime Minister Rishi] Sunak and [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelensky, are the perpetrators of Navalny’s death. It is they, who have made a huge number of failed decisions and cling to their positions, who benefit from his death.”

Vasily Piskarev, who heads the Duma's commission on foreign interference, took to Telegram to declare his complete agreement with Volodin:

“Washington and Brussels, who are trying with all their might to weaken our country, prevent its victory, and interfere in its internal affairs, now, just a few minutes after the news of Navalny's death, publicly declare that they know its causes. Although there has been no forensic examination or investigation yet.

There is a well-known expression in Latin: is fecit, cui prodest. Committed by the one who benefits.”

Also on Telegram, Margarita Simonyan, the editor and chief of Russian state broadcaster RT, addressed those who she said were already accusing the Russian government of “assassinating” Navalny, writing:

“I will not even begin to explain to them that everyone has long forgotten him [Navalny], that there was no point in killing him, especially before the elections, because it is beneficial to exactly the opposite forces.”

Russia’s next presidential election is scheduled for March.

Navalny came in second in the 2013 Moscow mayoral elections, and his supporters said the investigations launched against him for a variety of alleged crimes, including fraud and embezzlement, were politically motivated.

In December 2016, Navalny officially announced that he would run as a candidate in Russia’s March 2018 presidential election.

A year later, in December 2017, Russia’s Central Election Commission declared that Navalny was ineligible to run for president because of a prior criminal conviction.

In August 2023, he was sentenced to an additional 19 years in prison for alleged “extremism,” bringing his total sentence to more than 30 years.