On 7 October 2021, in response to the démarche made against Russia within the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) by a group of 45 States “concerned” about the 2020 incident involving Russian blogger Alexey Navalny, the Russian Federation submitted through the OPCW Technical Secretariat (TS) a counter-démarche to the representatives of France, Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom under paragraph 2 of Article IX of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).
On 18 October 2021, France, Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom sent their official responses to the Russian request through the OPCW TS within the timeframe set out in the CWC, however, the content of their responses cannot be satisfactory to the Russian Federation or other rational CWC States Parties due to being empty.
We are obliged to note that the documents we have received are nothing but non-committal, “megaphone diplomacy”-style replies containing “highly likely” statements. They clearly aim to bring the efforts to publicly clarify all circumstances of the incident involving the blogger to a dead-lock. This indicates the willingness of the French, German, Swedish and British sides to reduce this situation to an absurdity and basically prevent the disclosure of the facts revealing the true nature of the incident with Alexey Navalny, as well as the international political campaign around him launched by the German authorities.
The Russian Federation has yet again been denied legitimately requested information and materials of crucial importance required by the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs to finish the preliminary inquiry into the incident with Alexey Navalny for evidence of a criminal offence and possible grounds for instituting relevant criminal proceedings. According to the repeated statements made by the representatives of the States concerned, the latter are allegedly in possession of documentary and material proof, including blogger’s biological samples, confirming his intoxication with some chemical warfare agent, yet, for some unexplained reason, they are making every effort to hide it from both the Russian investigative authorities and the international community.
Berlin, London, Paris and Stockholm have left a number of our key questions unanswered, namely:
- What is the exact chemical composition of the toxic substance allegedly found by German and later French and Swedish military chemists in blogger’s biological samples?
- Who was the person who accompanied Alexey Navalny aboard the chartered medical flight from Omsk to Berlin and what was his/her departmental affiliation?
- What was the role of British citizen Ms. Pevchikh in this whole affair, whose involvement is so heavily concealed by both German and British authorities?
- Why are the Russian law enforcement agencies prevented from questioning Ms. Pevchikh?
The statement made by Paris about waiting for “credible explanations for this attempted murder” from our country is logically inconsistent with France’s refusal to cooperate with the Russian Federation on the incident with Alexey Navalny under the 1959 European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters, under which the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation requested the results of the toxicological analysis of blogger’s biological samples allegedly conducted by the French military chemical laboratory, but to no avail. Berlin and Stockholm have adopted a similar undisguisedly provocative position.
The United Kingdom continues spreading its overused propagandistic slogans, twisting the facts and issuing carbon-copy quasi-prosecutorial accusatory rants against Russia. London’s position, according to which the questions we posed allegedly cannot be directed to the British authorities, is also puzzling. This makes no sense, given that London was the one to take the initiative and assume the “honorary” mission to submit a document on behalf of 45 States “concerned” about the incident with Alexey Navalny to the OPCW. It seems that the British authorities have gotten absorbed in their anti-Russian provocations similar to that Skripal fraud and remain falsely confident that the truth will never be revealed to public.
German response rejects the obvious fact that there is a conspiracy among a group of Western states with full participation of Berlin resulting in the Navalny’s health incident brought to the international level of the OPCW. Russia has been groundlessly accused of using some “chemical warfare agent”. This is how a cholinesterase inhibitor initially found in the Charité Hospital was classified by the military chemical laboratory of the Bundeswehr Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology, whose formula, as mentioned earlier, is carefully concealed. However, if the German side was truly concerned about the actual investigation into the incident with Alexey Navalny under the CWC, it would definitely share the information about what had been “found” in blogger’s biological samples. Yet, Berlin remains stubbornly reluctant to do so.
The actions consistently undertaken by the German authorities and their Euro Atlantic allies since 20 August 2020 clearly indicate a planned provocation aiming to discredit the Russian Federation in the eyes of the international community and cause us not only political, but also financial and economic damage through sanctions.
Germany has persistently evaded directly answering the question of “Who was the person who accompanied Alexey Navalny aboard the chartered medical flight from Omsk to Berlin and what was his/her departmental affiliation?”. Another reply is mockingly laconic: there were no members or representatives of the German Government or other German authorities aboard that plane, they say. Yet, during his entire stay in Germany, Alexey Navalny was heavily guarded by the German special services and received attention at the highest political level.
Furthermore, they have long tried to conceal from the Russian side even the very fact that Germany requested assistance from the OPCW. Without disputing the thesis of the German authorities that the CWC does not require prior notice to or consent of other States Parties to the Convention when requesting technical assistance, it is worth recalling that up until 14 September 2020, the day when the German government officially announced that the OPCW Technical Secretariat had taken biosamples from Alexey Navalny, the high-rank officials of the OPCW Technical Secretariat in response to numerous requests from Russia persistently claimed that they had not received any requests for technical assistance from the German side. They later admitted that such "secrecy" about what was going on was maintained at Berlin's request. So why was the interaction between the German authorities and the OPCW Technical Secretariat on the incident with Alexey Navalny steadfastly concealed from the Russian Federation? It is noteworthy that the OPCW Technical Secretariat is confused even about the date of Germany's request for technical assistance: whether 20 August or 4 September 2020.
According to Berlin, German military chemists have found that certain "traces" on the water bottle, which representatives of Navalny's inner circle allegedly took from his hotel room in Tomsk, are identical with a certain substance allegedly found in the blogger's biomaterials. Therefore, this bottle is a potential key piece of evidence of a possible assassination attempt on Alexey Navalny. How then should we understand the German side's bold statement that the Russian Federation does not need this physical evidence to investigate the incident? They claim that Russia has all the necessary materials to complete the investigation.
Furthermore, the German side assures that it knows nothing about the role of a British national Maria Pevchikh in the story with Navalny or her present whereabouts. But it was Maria Pevchikh, according to her own words in an interview with the BBC Russian Service on 18 September 2020, who took the aforementioned bottle (i.e., the key "evidence of poisoning" of Alexey Navalny in the possession of the German side) to Berlin on the same plane that transported the blogger from Omsk. How then could the German authorities not be aware of Maria Pevchikh's role and her present whereabouts? The German side's absurd explanations about this woman sound even more implausible against the background of media reports about her frequent visits to Navalny both at the Charité hospital in Berlin and at a villa near Freiburg, where the blogger was under the round-the-clock care of German special services.
Responding to the crucial question – "Why is the formula of the chemicals allegedly found in the biomaterials of the Russian citizen outside of the Russian Federation still hidden from Russian experts?" the German side has once again resorted to a clumsy bureaucratic "trick", referring the Russian side to the leadership of the OPCW Technical Secretariat and its previously published report on technical assistance to Germany, from the text of which the same formula of the mentioned chemicals was blotted out at the insistence of Germany. The snake bit its tail.
In the same context, for some reason reference is made to the clumsy statement by Fernando Arias, Director-General of the OPCW Technical, that "the results of the analysis (note: carried out by the OPCW specialists) confirmed that a toxic chemical of the Novichok family was found in Mr. Navalny's blood". However, it should be recalled that the aforementioned report by the OPCW Technical Secretariat does not mention any "Novichoks". It refers to "the biomarkers of the cholinesterase inhibitor with similar structural characteristics to the toxic chemicals belonging to Schedules 1.A.14 and 1.A.15".
It is obvious that the German authorities and the OPCW Technical Secretariat supervised by them and their allies deliberately conceal the formula of the substance allegedly found in Navalny's biomaterials for fear that its disclosure would finally destroy the already unfounded narrative of Russia's alleged violation of the CWC.
The answer by the German side regarding the absence of photo and video materials taken during the collection of biological samples from Navalny in Berlin's Charité clinic also raises serious questions. Video recording of sampling is required by OPCW rules and is a standard procedure in the OPCW’s activities. Still no response from the Technical Secretariat to our similar request of July 27, 2021: we urged the Secretariat to provide the available video footage on sampling and to inform on any other activities of the Technical Secretariat with regard to technical assistance to Germany on the incident with Alexey Navalny.
With regard to the UK's claims that Russia allegedly has "stalled and effectively blocked the OPCW Technical Secretariat from deploying a technical assistance visit", it is worth recalling that it was the leadership of the OPCW Technical Secretariat that, under far-fetched pretexts, effectively refused to provide such assistance to the Russian Federation under Article VIII, paragraph 38 (e) of the CWC on the basis of the modalities requested by the Russian side in full compliance with the Convention. Thus, a proposal for a joint examination by the OPCW experts and specialized Russian professionals of Alexey Navalny's remaining biological materials using the OPCW equipment at the premises of an OPCW-certified laboratory of the Research Institute for Hygiene, Occupational Pathology, and Human Ecology in St. Petersburg was rejected. At the same time, London is well aware that there are no "standard modalities" for providing such assistance, and it is up to the requesting state to determine the type and amount of assistance required.
In conclusion, we note that the unconstructive position of the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Sweden did not allow to clarify within the mechanisms provided for by Article IX of the CWC the true circumstances of the incident with Alexey Navalny. The main question remains unanswered: where, when and under what circumstances did traces of the substance allegedly found by military chemists from Germany, France and Sweden and specialized laboratories of the OPCW appear in the blogger's biomaterials outside the territory of the Russian Federation? Omsk medical professionals who saved Navalny's life found no traces of any poisons in his body system.
The material was issued as an official document of the UN Security Council (S/2021/924) and as an official document of the 98-th session of the OPCW Executive Council (EC-98/NAT.13).