The interview was primarily focused on the events which took place after Navalny took a flight from the Russian city Tomsk to Moscow on August 20, when, as he claims, he was poisoned with a secret chemical weapon, a so-called “Novichok”. However, even Yuri Dud, known for his liberal opposition views and generally supportive of Navalny, expressed doubts about the story which his interviewee recounted. In particular, there were a wide array of issues which were extremely difficult to explain in terms of logic and common sense.
The biggest discussion centered around the topic of whether Navalny had actually been poisoned and whether the poison had in fact been “Novichok”. Most experts believe that “Novichok” is a chemical so dangerous and potent that it would be all but impossible to survive that kind of poisoning, not only for Navalny, but also for people who had surrounded him on the plane.
Aleksandr Perendzhiev, associate professor of the Department of Political Science and Sociology of the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, recalled that “Novichok” affects the nervous system, while the victim cannot breathe and experiences unbearable pain, after which he or she dies in 90 percent of cases.
“In this whole situation, it is surprising that the very use of “Novichok” does not imply that the people around Navalny would survive. He was always among people and it was simply impossible to poison him alone. In addition, his assaillant would have had to approach his intended victim in a biohazard suit, but this was not the case. Further, if he had been poisoned by “Novichok”, then he would have had no chance of a full recovery, he would have remained disabled for life, a vegetable. And here he is already getting out of bed, disconnected from artificial pulmonary ventilation, he talks to people, he gives interviews. In general, he exemplifies the miracles of recovery and good health. This is 100 percent not “Novichok,” Perendzhiev stated.
Interestingly, there were also commentaries from the developers of “Novichok”. But there is no mutually-held opinion in their ranks. One of the creators of Novichok, Vil Mirzayanov, apologized to Navalny for his participation “in this criminal business – the development of this substance, which poisoned Navalny”.
He also said that in 1993 he met a man who allegedly survived the “Novichok” poisoning. The symptoms of poisoning he described, according to Mirzayanov, coincide with the symptoms described by Navalny. Two other participants of the toxic substances’ development group, Leonid Rink and Vladimir Uglev, did not agree with Mirzayanov. In their opinion, Mirzayanov is not competent in terms of the physiological manifestations of how the poison works and cannot evaluate the symptoms.
Another reason for doubting the adequacy of Navalny’s story, became his statement that the Russian president Vladimir Putin might be personally involved in his poisoning by giving the order for that. Such a statement, apart from being a clear indication of Navalny’s megalomania, does not answer the main question: if this poisoning was sanctioned at the level of a Russian president, why was it then not successful seeing that Navalny is still alive and has even returned to his normal state? And why were Navalny and his family allowed to leave Russia by its authorities, since they are now all in Germany? These nagging questions, although pretty logical and fair, were answered neither by Navalny nor by his supporters.
Instead, Navalny has been overly active in commenting on the statements by the Russian president’s press-secretary Dmitriy Peskov. In particular, Alexey Navalny vigorously rejected Peskov’s words about Navalny being a CIA tool. The Russian blogger even announced that he would sue Peskov for such statements.
Nevertheless, while no evidence of Navalny’s collaboration with the CIA has been presented, certain media outlets believe that there was certainly interaction between Navalny and the German Federal Intelligence Service. Otherwise it would have been impossible to imagine Merkel’s security service allowing a meeting with Navalny – which happened while he was being treated at the Charité hospital.
Moreover, Navalny has a group of bodyguards who follow him wherever he goes. The presence of a large number of guards was confirmed by the Spiegel journalists who spoke to Navalny during the interview. The conversation with the Spiegel took almost two hours, during which the Russian blogger expressed excitement, joked and laughed a lot. These circumstances surprised the Spiegel editors, who noted that Navalny did not look like a man who had been in a coma, and on the verge of death for several weeks.
Taking into consideration that one of the most influential European leaders, Merkel showed such a keen interest in Navalny and all the activities surrounding Navalny’s recovery and protection, one can say that he is undoubtedly needed in Europe. One of the possible reasons of such a high level of interest in the alleged victim, may be the disruption of the construction of Nord Stream-2. The poisoning may become a pretext for firstly an information onslaught, and then diplomatic and economic pressure, forcing Germany to cancel the Nord Stream-2 project under US pressure.
Such a scenario seems to be an especially viable explanation in recollecting the events of 2009. Back then, the USA disrupted a transaction to sell Opel assets to a Russian consortium. Angela Merkel called the failure of the deal “a defeat”. At the same time, the German Minister of Economics Rainer Brüderle expressed his indignation about the failed deal and stated that “the actions of General Motors in relation to Germany are absolutely unacceptable”.
Nevertheless, some experts believe that the Navalny case should be viewed as important not only for Europe and not only as a means to sabotage Nord Stream-2: Alexey Navalny actually managed to develop significant information and organizational infrastructure during his many years as a political activist in Russia. He has quite a wide range of supporters both in Moscow and in Russian regions, and he is openly financed by one the Russian oligarchs Boris Zimin who now lives in London. It is quite obvious that many state and non-state players would be interested in using such a network to influence Russian foreign and domestic policy.
Therefore, the continuous campaign noise which Navalny has generated around himself, has been to his credit – he is an expert in increasing his own value as that of a “victim of the Russian regime”.