Disinfo: Russophobic Western media push narrative of Putin’s role in Navalny poisoning

Summary

A new narrative in the Western media claims that the Russian President Vladimir Putin is the mastermind who poisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny with a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok group, reviving an old trope used to stoke Russophobia. […] In 2018, similarly unverifiable claims were made about the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in the UK and used to whip up fresh paranoia about Russia and Putin.

Disproof

Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative about Russophobia and the poisoning of Alexei Navalny. A prominent Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny fell ill during a flight from Siberia to Moscow on the 20th of August. Initially hospitalized in Omsk, at the request of his family he was transferred to Charité hospital in Berlin. Clinical findings at the Charité hospital indicated that Navalny was poisoned with a substance from the group of cholinesterase inhibitors. Subsequent toxicological tests provided unequivocal evidence of a chemical nerve agent of the Novichok group in the blood samples of Alexei Navalny. Pro-Kremlin disinformation outlets frequently accuse the West of Russophobia and are presenting a variety of mutually exclusive versions of what happened to Alexei Navalny. Similar techniques were used to sow doubt about the poisoning of Sergei Skripal with the nerve agent Novichok by GRU agents.

publication/media

  • Reported in: Issue 210
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 03/09/2020
  • Language/target audience: English
  • Country: Russia, Germany
  • Keywords: Skripal, novichok, Sergei Skripal, Mainstream media, Chemical weapons/attack, Alexei Navalny, Anti-Russian, Media, Russophobia, Information war

Disclaimer

Cases in the EUvsDisinfo database focus on messages in the international information space that are identified as providing a partial, distorted, or false depiction of reality and spread key pro-Kremlin messages. This does not necessarily imply, however, that a given outlet is linked to the Kremlin or editorially pro-Kremlin, or that it has intentionally sought to disinform. EUvsDisinfo publications do not represent an official EU position, as the information and opinions expressed are based on media reporting and analysis of the East Stratcom Task Force.

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Navalny could have caused his coma himself

Navalny could have caused his coma himself. A few days before his hospitalization, blogger Alexei Navalny had problems with nutrition and digestion. The patient also used some kinds of diets. Navalny was trying to lose weight. The doctors received this data from the persons accompanying the blogger. In the two days that Navalny spent in a coma in the Omsk ambulance hospital No. 1, doctors were able to normalise carbohydrate metabolism in the blogger’s body. These parameters have nothing to do with Novichok and have nothing to do with it.

Disproof

No evidence given. To prove the allegation that Navalny "had problems with nutrition and digestion" the disinformation outlet refers to certain "data from the persons accompanying the blogger". But the persons accompanying Navalny made the opposite claims. A spokesperson for Navalny, one of two persons accompanying him on the plane when he fell ill, Kira Yarmysh, told media that Nvalny felt very well the day before he fell into the coma, the same morning and even minutes before it happened. No other claims were made by another colleagues of Navalny or his family. No evidence is given that, if proven that Navalny was on diet regime, it could lead to a severe sudden coma. Pro-Kremlin disinformation outlets give a variety of mutually exclusive versions of what happened to Navalny (for example, that he poisoned himself with alcohol, pills or that his poisoning profits the EU or even another opposition leader Mikhail Khodorkovsky). Similar techniques were used to refute the Skripals' poisoning with nerve agent Novichok by GRU agents. Background Russian opposition leader and a critic of Vladimir Putin Alexey Navalny has been suffering from suspected poisoning. He fell ill during a flight and the plane had to make an emergency landing in Omsk, where doctors said he was in a coma. Navalny has since been transferred to Berlin and is receiving treatment at Berlin's Charite Hospital. Clinical findings indicate poisoning with a substance from the group of cholinesterase inhibitors, said Charite. At the request of the Charité, a specialist Bundeswehr laboratory carried out toxicological tests on samples from Alexei Navalny. The results of these tests have revealed unequivocal proof of the presence of a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok group. Germany will forward the results of the toxicological test to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague.

In 2014 in Ukraine a Junta came to power in Kiev, created new legislation on languages and triggered a purely internal conflict in the country

In Ukraine, there is a conflict which is really internal, which arises from the legislation adopted by the new junta in Ukraine on languages. There was a snowball effect that has been created around of this question of languages.

Disproof
Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative about a coup and military Junta in Kiev and as a result the alleged civil war in Ukraine based on languages. The war in eastern Ukraine is not a civil conflict, but a well-documented act of aggression by the Russian armed forces, ongoing since February 2014. There wasn't any new regulation on language decided by Kiev then. Certainly, on February 23, 2014, right after then-President Viktor Yanukovych fled the country the Verkhovna Rada voted for the abolition of the bill “On the principles of the state language policy” from 2012 and known as the “Kivalov-Kolesnichenko language law”. However, neither then-acting President Oleksandr Turchynov nor the subsequent president, Petro Poroshenko, signed or vetoed the law abolishing the Kivalov-Kolesnichenko language law. This means it was still in force until February 2018,when it was ruled unconstitutional by Ukraine’s Constitutional Court because of systematic procedural violations during its adoption. This untrue narrative was used by Russia as a pretext to justify the annexation of Crimea and military aggression in Eastern Ukraine. See similar narratives about Ukraine's role in the conflict and the Minsk Agreements here.

Minsk intercepted a conversation between Warsaw and Berlin, which refutes claims about Navalny’s poisoning

The symptoms identified by Navalny are absolutely different from those that occur when poisoning with toxin. Samples that could confirm the “poisoning” will not be provided to Russia. Minsk had intercepted the conversation between Warsaw and Berlin, which refutes the statement about the blogger’s poisoning.

Disproof

Disinformation campaign around the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. The German government dismissed Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s statement about intercepted conversation refuting Navalny's poisoning as being untrue. An official representative of the German government told RBC: “Of course, the statement of Alyaksandr Lukashenka does not correspond to reality.” The Polish Foreign Ministry also rejected reports by the Belarusian authorities about an alleged telephone conversation between subscribers in Warsaw and Berlin regarding the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. In response to an inquiry by the Russian TASS agency, the Polish Foreign Ministry stated on September 7:" “We refute the Belarusian reports about the alleged telephone conversation on the Warsaw-Berlin line, in which the authorities of the two countries allegedly admitted that Alexei Navalny was not poisoned". Context: Belarusian state-run media circulated a tape in which two people calling each other Nick and Mike talk about Navalny. It follows from the conversation that the poisoning of Navalny was allegedly falsified in order to increase pressure on Russia and force it to refuse to interfere in the affairs of Belarus. Alyaksandr Lukashenka previously claimed that this was an interception of a conversation between Berlin and Warsaw. Unlike many other media, RIA Novosti did not include any denials of the authenticity of the tape in their article from September 4, nor give any updates. As shown above, Germany's denial was released on September 3. Instead, in the same article, RIA Novosti advances narratives that Navalny's symptoms do not correspond to poisoning with nerve agent Novichok and that Germany won't provide the samples to Russia, to mutually strengthen the claims. Both narrative are false. See debunking on the Insider as for Novichok's poisoning symptoms. Also, the German authorities "agreed a long time ago" to satisfy the request of the Russian Prosecutor General's Office for legal assistance in the case of the possible poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, said German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. Background Russian opposition leader and a critic of Vladimir Putin Alexey Navalny has been suffering from suspected poisoning. He fell ill during a flight and the plane had to make an emergency landing in Omsk, where doctors said he was in a coma. Navalny has since been transferred to Berlin and is receiving treatment at Berlin's Charite Hospital. Clinical findings indicate poisoning with a substance from the group of cholinesterase inhibitors, said Charite. At the request of the Charité, a specialist Bundeswehr laboratory carried out toxicological tests on samples from Alexei Navalny. The results of these tests have revealed unequivocal proof of the presence of a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok group. Germany will forward the results of the toxicological test to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague.