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Really? Russia Inflates a Minor Mistake Into a Bogus Navalny Conspiracy

Mural of Aleksey Navalny by Swiss artists Julien Baro & Lud is pictured ahead of the June 16, 2021, summit between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva.
Maria Zakharova

Maria Zakharova

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson

“This newly revealed fact in the case of the so-called ‘Navalny poisoning’ should be the subject of the most thorough study.”


On July 22, Russia’s state-owned RIA Novosti news agency published an article quoting Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova’s comments on a report released by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

Zakharova cited a new "fact” in the 2020 poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny found in the draft version of the OPCW report, which, she said, demanded a full-blown investigation.

Forget that the OCPW report really wasn’t about Navalny and didn’t even name him. Or that the fact was a minor mistake that was corrected in the final OCPW report.

“This newly revealed fact in the case of the so-called ‘Navalny poisoning’ should be the subject of the most thorough study,” she said of the draft version of the OPCW report.

“It is necessary, finally, to shed light on the origins of this clearly orchestrated provocation, which in essence is intended to cast a shadow on the good name of our country and once and for all undermine the OPCW."

That a minor corrected error suggests an choreographed conspiracy is false, although “ridiculous” may be a more apt description.

As RIA Novosti itself reported, the glitch was simply a mistaken date in the draft version of the report, which merely summarizes recent activities of the chemical weapons watchdog.

Without naming Navalny, the draft stated that on August 20, 2020, the OPCW received a request from German authorities for a specialist team to aid in the investigation of the poisoning of a Russian citizen.

That was obviously wrong given that August 20, 2020, was the day Navalny fell violently and suspiciously ill on a flight from Tomsk in Siberia to Moscow. After collapsing in pain in the airplane’s lavatory, the pilot made an emergency landing in Omsk, where Navalny was taken to the hospital and initially treated for ingestion of a toxic substance. Two days later, Russian authorities allowed Navalny, now in a coma, to be flown to Germany for further treatment.

The final version of the OPCW report cited the correct date for Germany’s request for help in its investigation: September 4, 2020. By then, Navalny had already been in Berlin’s Charite Hospital in Berlin for nearly two weeks.

The RIA Novosti article reported that Rainer Breul, a German Foreign Ministry official, refuted speculative claims about the date, saying it was printed in error and corrected. The state-owned TASS news agency also reported this.

Russian authorities’ explanation for Navalny’s sickness, repeated in the RIA Novosti article, is that he fell ill due to an unnamed metabolic disorder that caused his blood sugar to rapidly drop.

Navalny has no history of such a disorder.

Doctors in Omsk, where Navalny was initially hospitalized, claimed they found no traces of toxic substances in his body.

However, one of the doctors who treated Navalny in Omsk told Reuters he initially suspected the opposition leader had been poisoned and gave Navalny atropine, a drug to treat victims of nerve agents.

This is likely what saved Navalny’s life. We say that because in December 2020, with the help of the open-source intelligence organization Bellingcat, Navalny managed to contact one of the men who had helped poison him, FSB operative Konstantin Kudryavtsev.

Posing as an official working on a report for the Kremlin’s Security Council, Navalny elicited a wealth of information from Kudryavtsev, who divulged that Navalny survived because the pilot of the airliner he was on promptly made an emergency landing and medical workers immediately treated him for poisoning.

In June, members of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation reported they obtained Navalny’s unredacted medical records from the hospital in Omsk. They said the original records reported traces of a cholinesterase inhibitor in Navalny’s blood. Novichok, a Soviet-era nerve agent, is such a substance.

The OPCW and three European laboratories ran tests after Navalny was transferred to Berlin. All confirmed he had been poisoned with a Novichok agent.