Oppositionist in a coma: is Putin behind it? Navalny would not be the Kremlin’s first poison victim
Alexei Navalny is one of the Kremlin’s harshest critics. Now he’s in a coma. He is said to have been poisoned – just like other Russian opposition members before.
Alexei Navalny is in a coma in a hospital in the Siberian city of Omsk, said his spokeswoman Kira Jarmysch on Thursday. He is said to have been poisoned, and deliberately, Jarmysch told the radio station “Echo Moswky”. “Poisoning is a possibility,” a treating doctor confirmed to journalists.
The 44-year-old opposition member had a cup of black tea at the airport in Tomsk, otherwise he had not consumed anything. He lost consciousness while on board on the way to Moscow. The plane landed in the Siberian city of Omsk, then Navalny was taken to hospital.
Poisoning right before local elections
Navalny is the leader of the liberal opposition and one of the sharpest critics of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. He regularly accuses the government and oligarchs of corruption and abuse of power. To do this, he publishes research on social networks. In recent years he has organized protests across the country – young people in particular took part.
His spokeswoman Yarmysh links the incident to the upcoming local elections in Russia in September. “There is no doubt that Navalny was poisoned because of his political position and activities,” said Vyacheslav Gimadi, the lawyer for Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Fund.
Also read: “I’m sure he was deliberately poisoned”: Kremlin critic Navalny is in a coma
The apparent attack on Navalny is said not to have been the first. A year ago he was allegedly treated for allergy shock while in prison in a hospital. Navalny emphasized at the time that he could have been poisoned.
Before that, Putin’s opponents suddenly passed out and had to be hospitalized – some after a cup of tea.
The Skripal case: Salisbury poison attack changed diplomacy forever
Sergei Skripal’s fate is known around the world as the Salisbury poison attack. On March 4, 2018, the Russian double agent and his daughter Julia were found unconscious on a park bench in Salisbury, UK. Shortly before, they are said to have had tea with two Russians in a hotel. Skripal had withdrawn after a 6-year camp sentence in Great Britain and resumed its agent work according to a report by the “Focus”. Investigators quickly found that they had been poisoned with the neurotoxin Novichok. Father and daughter survived the attack.
On March 12, the British Prime Minister Theresa May declared in the lower house that Russia was “most likely” behind the attack. Numerous western countries sided with Great Britain. In January 2019, the EU put leading employees of the Russian military intelligence service GRU and two suspected bombers, officers of the GRU, on a sanctions list. Putin continues to reject any Russian responsibility. In 2010 he said of Skripal and others pardoned at the time: “The traitors will bite the grass. Trust me. These people betrayed their friends, their brothers in arms.”
In the attack on Skripal also bystanders were harmed: A British couple from the surrounding area had found a bottle in Salisbury, with which the poison had apparently been transported. Both came into contact with residues of the poison. The woman died of her poisoning, the man went blind.
“The bastards got me”: Alexander Litvinenko died from radioactive polonium
Apparently Alexander Litvinenko also drank a poisoned tea – and it cost him his life on November 23, 2006. Litvinenko worked for years for the Soviet secret service KGB and after the collapse of the USSR for the successor service FSB. After he had repeatedly accused the Kremlin of trying to eliminate opponents through the secret service, he, like Skripal, set himself apart in Great Britain. “The bastards got me,” he said in a recent interview with the Times. The Kremlin silenced him. “I want to survive just to show you.” Doctors found significant amounts of radioactive polonium in his urine.
One day after his death, the Russian ex-prime minister Yegor Gaidar fell ill. At a conference in Dublin, he became faint, with blood flowing from his mouth and nose. To date, the cause is unclear. He himself had no doubt: he was poisoned for political reasons. Unlike Litvinenko, he survived.
Pussy Riot member could no longer see, speak, or move
The Russian political punk band Pussy Riot has become known around the world for its actions against arbitrariness and corruption. Band member Piotr Wersilow could barely see, speak or move after a court hearing in September 2018. He also lost consciousness. First he was taken to a Moscow hospital, then treated by specialists in Berlin.
According to media reports, doctors found strong psychotropic drugs in his blood. Life partner Nadezhda Tolokonnikowa told the “Bild” newspaper at Schönefeld Airport that she assumed that her partner had been poisoned on purpose and that it was either intimidation or an assassination attempt. Versilov’s case has not yet been clarified.
“I know the answer, but I can’t pronounce it”
In 2004 Viktor Yushchenko was the favorite in the Ukrainian presidential election. His opponent: Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who was openly supported by Russian President Vladimir Putin. During the election campaign, Yushchenko had to be treated in hospital for weeks and dropped out of the race. It was only months later that it turned out that he was poisoned with dioxin and seriously injured as a result.
According to him, he was given the poison at a dinner with Ukrainian intelligence officials. “According to the investigation, the poison was mixed with the rice when it was eaten,” Yushchenko told the BBC. In March 2018, in an interview with the BBC, Yushchenko responded to the question of whether President Putin was involved by saying that he had an answer to that, but that he could not say it.
Skripal, Litvinenko, Versilov, Yushchenko and Navalny were all apparently victims of poison attacks. You stand in line with many government critics who have been kidnapped, shot or poisoned.
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