Monday, April 15, 2024

Russia : Navalny’s convenient death

The death of the 47 year old, Russian politician Alexis Navalny in prison in Russia is a very curious affair. It was in Vladimir Putin’s interest to keep him alive and it suited the West for him to die just when he did.

Robert Harneis (DR)
Robert Harneis (DR)

By Robert Harneis

It comes with the capture of the heavily fortified key Ukrainian fortress of Avdeevka. This is the strong point from which the Kiev government has been bombarding its own citizens in the nearby breakaway city of Donetsk for the last ten years. It is a great psychological blow for Kiev and the West. A media distraction has been most welcome.
It overshadows the mega media event, the Tucker Carlson – Putin interview, watched by millions, maybe hundreds of millions worldwide.
It comes on the first day of the annual Western diplomatic rally, the Munich Security Conference. A conference attended by Navalny’s wife who immediately delivered a call to Russians to overthrow Putin ‘soon’.
It plays neatly into the faltering campaign by the President Biden to get $61 billion dollars for Ukraine approved by a Republican controlled House of Representatives. ‘How can you block funds for the fight for democracy in Ukraine after this evil crime?’.
It is an event that disrupts Donald Trump’s highly successful electoral campaign to return to the White House. Trump we are told is virtually a Russian agent. He wants to get rid of NATO, the NATO that is supporting Ukraine’s fight for democracy and human rights.

A very timely death

Navalny’s death coming when it did was very convenient for his Western friends and some say his masters. Does that mean that somehow the CIA or MI6 terminated him? It is not impossible, but Navalny had many other enemies besides Putin. He specialized in revealing corruption, not a popular activity. Not hard to find a fellow inmate or corrupt prison officer – ask the late Jeffry Epstein who died mysteriously in a US prison. However, we should not forget that people do die of natural causes even in Russian prisons. Navalny was not a healthy man.
It is notable that a mere fifteen minutes after the announcement of Navalny’s death, the political leaders of the collective West began issuing statements blaming Putin. They were suspiciously quick off the mark. As one man they said ‘Putin did it’. How did they know? Well, they didn’t of course but that didn’t stop them saying it. For the West it is ‘the narrative’ that is important, what the voters need to believe, not what actually happened and the narrative is that Navalny was a beacon of democracy in the Russian dictatorship and was done to death on the express orders of Putin.

Putin had no interest in making Navalny disappear

Why Putin would choose this moment of all moments, to do away with Navalny, to his own enormous and obvious disadvantage is not explained. He might have been a political nuisance but polls showed his support at around 2%. In reality Putin’s biggest rival has always been the Communist Party.
What did the Russian government have to say to all this? First, they, not unreasonably, suggested that everyone should wait until the result of the autopsy before jumping to conclusions. RT, the Russian government backed news and current affairs channel, the equivalent of the BBC and France24, put out a balanced and factual article about Navalny. It is a pity that they are banned in France. They paint a picture of a dynamic, charismatic man who did many things law, investments, activism but kept coming back to politics, which had always fascinated him.

Hatred of Muslims

His business career twice ended in court where he was found guilty of fraud and embezzlement. He claimed that the prosecutions were politically motivated and he may well have been right. But to suggest that he and his brother were whiter than white operators in the rough and tumble world of Russian business is stretching credibility. Note that in both cases he was merely sentenced to probation. But the criminal convictions hindered his political career making it impossible for him to stand in the 2018 presidential election.
In 2012 he had his only electoral success as a candidate for mayor of Moscow. He lost what was generally regarded as a fair election but attracted 27% of the vote. Despite exaggerated claims in the West that he was Putin’s biggest rival, he attracted marginal interest from voters across wider Russia. His core support was amongst more westernized citizens of Moscow and St Petersburg. Despite media claims to the contrary his death did not inspire mass demonstrations.
Looking a bit closer at his political career he had a first phase as an extreme nationalist anti-immigrant campaigner from 2000 to 2007 never mentioned by his western backers. There are two notorious videos of him on line. In one he advocated gun rights to deal with ‘flies and cockroaches’ making clear he meant Muslims. In another he compared immigrants to ‘tooth decay’.

Six month stay in the United States

He approved the Russian war with Georgia in 2008 and took part in skin-type anti-immigrant ‘Russia Marches’ in favour of ethnic nationalism. He seems to have aimed at destabilizing the Russian government from the far right, with positions that caused him to be resented in Ukraine to this day as a Russian Nationalist, positions way beyond anything Putin would support. It is a high priority of the Russian government to foster racial harmony in a country with 190 different ethnic groups. One of Putin’s successes has the been the pacification of Chechenia and its conversion to enthusiastic support for the Special Military Operation in Ukraine.
By 2011 Navalny had dropped all that and become a dedicated blogger against corruption in Russian politics and business. He described the Russia United party, Putin’s main political support as a ‘party of crooks and liars’. This conversion on the road to Damascus came with the award of a Yale World Fellowship in 2010, which involved a six month stay in the United States with other ‘… trailblazers: disruptive thinkers and bold, original voices in their fields.’ He is described on the Fellowship website as ‘the leader of Russian opposition and the founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation’. There is no mention of his earlier rabid nationalism and islamophobia.

He was living dangerously

From the early 2000s there is evidence that he was in touch with Western secret services and took their money with a view to ultimately organizing a colour revolution in Russia. One the ‘crimes’ of Wikileaks and Julien Assange who languishes in a British high security prison in conditions quite as bad as Navalny, was that he revealed that Navalny’s movement Democracy Alternative (DA) was funded by the National Endowment for Democracy, an offshoot of the CIA. There is a video on line of his right hand man discussing with a British MI6 agent funding of 10 to 20 million dollars to ‘organize mass protests and propaganda’ to organize a colour revolution in the Russian Federation. He was living dangerously and he seems to have known it.
It is clear that the Russian government knew what he was up to and decided to make sure he could do no real harm. On the other hand they did not want to send him to prison or overreact unless their hand was forced.

CIA agent

In 2019 he was categorized as a foreign agent. It seems that the patience of the Russian government was finally exhausted with the poisoning affair. In 2021 he had a blackout on a flight in a private jet. His entourage and western governments immediately played this up as an attempted assassination. After Putin’s personal intervention, he was allowed to go to Germany for treatment where doctors alleged he had been poisoned with the notorious radioactive Novichok despite no evidence of medical staff wearing the essential protective clothing in such a case. And then amazingly he decided to go back to Russia. There he was sentenced to prison for flagrant breach of his probation conditions. After medical treatment he took part in a film and activities at the EU parliament hostile to Russia. By August 2023 he had collected a total of nineteen years sentences. In December 2023 he was transferred to a penal colony in northern Siberia.

American journalist Gonzalo Lira dies in Ukraine amid general indifference

Gonzalo_Lira_López (via Wikimédia)
Gonzalo_Lira_López (via Wikimédia)

Why did he go back to Russia in 2021? Hubris perhaps. By letting him go to Germany the Russian authorities were giving him the option of exile. He seems to have had plenty of that reckless courage that characterizes Russians and perhaps didn’t realise the level of Russian government anger about constant hostile Western pressure, propaganda and political subversion.
Despite the tragedy of his death, many informed observers have questioned the outpourings of outrage from Western governments compared with the complete indifference to the death of the American journalist Gonzalo Lira in a Ukrainian secret service prison through torture and ill health. Reuters have published 26 articles on Navalny and none on Lira. Lira’s crime was his reporting from inside Ukraine on the savage nature of the regime, its corruption, and even went so far as to attack US Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland personally. Another recklessly brave man. It would have taken one phone call to save his life and it was never made.
Countries in the Global South, outside Western influence, regard the affair as yet another example of Western double standards. In Gaza thousands of women and children have been slaughtered, 136 United Nations staff and over ninety journalists killed, many deliberately, by the Israeli defense forces to the evident indifference of the West.

And Julian Assange?

Julian Assange (Photo SNJ)
Julian Assange (Photo SNJ)

In a few days, judges in the United Kingdom will decide the fate of the Australian on line journalist Julian Assange, whose only offense is to have revealed the war crimes and shady secrets of the United States. He will attempt to convince judges not to extradite him to the United States where his chances of fair trial are slim and his chances of a trial process lasting less than several years zero. Unlike Navalny, Assange never considered overthrowing his own government or any other. He just revealed embarrassing truths. It will be interesting to see if the British judges practice what western governments preach and protect his right to speak out. The world will be watching.

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