Users of Facebook mocking Novichok/Navalny and his wife Yulia. Wikipedia

Incompetence or malice: Navalny case uncovers European bureaucratic inconsistencies

A year ago, the topic of the alleged “poisoning” of the Russian oppositional blogger and political activist Alexei Navalny was one of the most discussed in the West. Almost everyone commented: politicians were denouncing the next “crimes” of the Kremlin, while journalists and human rights activists called the incident with Navalny a political reprisal if not a political murder sanctioned personally by Putin.

Published: July 22, 2021, 2:37 pm

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    Ordinary citizens chimed in – even with their limited knowledge of who Navalny is – simply because it confirmed their prejudice of “it is better not to deal with Russia”.

    Interestingly, only those who really had some expertise in the field of chemical weapons and chemical warfare agents were not in a hurry to deliver damning conclusions. Moreover, these experts tried to ask questions while pointing out obvious contradictions and inconsistencies in the so-called poisoning case.

    The Russian side had opted for the “first research – then conclusions”. For example, the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office had sent Germany data several times on the results of the procedural actions, as well as a whole list of questions in order to initiate a criminal case related to the alleged poisoning, an act which Mr. Navalny himself and his closest circle had insisted on. Sadly, no intelligible answers were received. Moscow also asked for information about the substance “which was allegedly found in Germany” and its chemical composition, but Germans for no clear reasons, decided not to cooperate with Russians. The Russian authorities and special services were thus declared the culprits of the poisoning, and not merely the accused.

    Apparently within this narrative of “Putin personally poisoned Navalny”, Germany requested technical assistance from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). In particular, the German government asked the Technical Secretariat of the organization to provide help in accordance with subparagraph 38 (e) of Article VIII of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

    Indeed, the above mentioned subparagraph states that the Technical Secretariat provides assistance and technical expertise to States Parties in implementing the provisions of the Convention, including the assessment of scheduled and non-reportable chemicals. The OPCW group on the Navalny case was indeed created, and it was reported that the group members were analyzing some biomedical samples in their laboratories. The results which appeared in October 2020 were supposed to confirm the German government’s version that Navalny had been poisoned by the Russian military chemical “Novichok”.

    Notably, Germany had unequivocally announced its poisoning verdict literally a week after the incident itself. This extreme urgency conveyed the crucial importance of the issue for the German political establishment. As it turned out, the same extreme urgency was demonstrated by the OPCW – but only when it came to Mr. Navalny and the accusations against Russia.

    During the 97th session of the OPCW Executive Council which took place on 6-9 July, a draft report of the Organization on its activities in 2020 was presented. The document revealed further drastic inconsistencies of the version of Alexei Navalny’s alleged poisoning. The draft report indicated that the organization’s Secretariat sent a group to provide technical assistance “in the context of the suspected poisoning of a Russian citizen” at the request of Germany on August 20, 2020 – right on the day of the incident with Navalny.

    However, on August 20, 2020, the Russian blogger had been mid-air in a flight from Tomsk to Omsk, when the so-called “poisoning” actually happened. So basically, when Navalny was still fully conscious and fit as a fiddle, the OPCW group, according to their own report, had already been sent to provide technical assistance in connection with the suspicion of him being “poisoned” – exposing the curious timing of the organization’s conclusion, to say the least.

    It is also worth recalling that the OPCW does investigate poisoning with chemical substances – in relation to chemical warfare agents only.

    And if the technical group had been already formed on August 20, where and how did it get the relevant information? Another controversial point is that a formation of any technical group is only possible by an appeal of one of the participating countries, since the OPCW cannot work independently or of its own volition. It turns out that Germany had sent an urgent request to the OPCW, and the Organization responded to it immediately.

    But as the practice of European bureaucracy shows, in order for the request to be drawn up and sent, accepted as a working paper and eventually spurn the creation of a technical group, Germany would have had to send the corresponding document back in July, when Alexei Navalny was in excellent health. Thus, all the mentioned circumstances provoke a persistent feeling that something is seriously wrong with the so-called tale of “poisoning” and with the highly suspicious reaction of Germany and other European countries.

    There is an opinion that the whole Navalny case might have been a planned action in order to impose sanctions and pressure on Russia. In particular, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova commented on this case, noting that it pointed to the trumped-up nature of the charges against Russia in Navalny’s incident.

    “Well, that’s all. Western colleagues, in joining hands with Navalny, cheerfully persist with their story about poisoning with chemical weapons,” Zakharova concluded.

    Indeed, it is difficult to imagine how the OPCW, such a serious and respected organization, would tolerate a typo of this nature with dates and times as was described above. Ironically, whatever motive the OPCW has in the Navalny case, the employees of this organization, intentionally or by accident, have shed a light on the possibility of a fabrication as well as extreme bias just by preparing the draft report of their own investigation on the Navalny incident.

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