This is an article in the Guardian by Luke Harding about the Navalny poisoning. Harding appears to be someone who is used by MI5 to leak their ‘truths’ into the media – i.e. to run operations to control and manage public opinion. Harding appears to me to be a little bit mentally unbalanced – (he has a philosophy of ‘joining the dots’ when he reports on Russia which means that he leaps to the most outlandish conclusions because they ‘must’ be true – those who can’t see the conclusions are true are just not ‘joining the dots’) – and this use of him to carry stories for the intelligence services seems to me rather sad.
The main idea of the article is that British intelligence has concluded that Putin poisoned Navalny in order to “send him an unambiguous warning and force him into exile”. The reasoning is that he was under surveillance of the FSB when he fell ill and so the FSB must have done it.
Anyone can see that (whether or not the Kremlin did poison Navalny) this reasoning is wholly unsound. If Navaly had wanted to poison himself he could easily have taken something with him to Siberia – surveillance or not. Nor does this theory provide any evidence to counter another alternative – that the Novichok did not appear until Navalany arrived in Germany.
It is striking how Harding and other Western journalists who, apparently, fully understand their role in spreading the tales of the intelligence services, have so easily moved on to the new storyline put out by Navalny – that he was poisoned in his hotel room with a water bottle. Observant readers will recall that version one was all about a cup of tea at the airport. There was even a handy press release photograph of Navalny drinking the poisoned tea. It goes without saying that any journalist worth her salt would instinctively want to investigate this switch in the story. But that, of course, assumes that they were doing journalism in the first place.
Harding cites the “Dossier Center, a London-based investigative unit,” in support of his claims. A quick check shows that this outfit is not in fact anything to do with ‘investigations’ and is in fact a project of Mikhail Khodorkovsky – a well-known opponent of the Kremlin who has served time in Russia and who is currently wanted on a murder charge in Russia. As usual we have to point out that there is no rule in journalism which says you can’t cite wholly biased sources but there is a rule which says you should make clear to the reader the difference between an “investigative unit” and a self-interested campaign by a wealthy (and allegedly corrupt) individual. Why does Harding not do this? Because he is knowingly writing propaganda.
Harding also cites Andrei Soldatov in support of his claims. Andrei Soldatov is a Russian journalist who writes for the Moscow Times. The Moscow Times is part-owned by a Dutch publisher and is characterised by a continual stream of anti-Kremlin articles. (The use of Russian “experts” to bolster these stories by providing background statements along the lines of “this is the sort of thing the FSB does” is a standard part of the technique for these stories).
The idea that the FSB poisoned Navalny on Putin’s orders in order to “send him a message” shows a disconnected grasp of Russian politics. As this website has previously pointed out, for many years the Kremlin has been successfully containing Navalny by a policy of denying him the oxygen of publicity – while Navalny has been deliberately trying to get himself jailed – and therefore turned into a martyr. People who want to promote the theory that the Kremlin poisoned Navalny in Siberia at least need to explain why there has been a 180 degree change in policy at just this moment. They also need to explain other factors – such as how it is possible to be sure that you could make someone ill from Novichok but not kill them; how the delays by the Kremlin in allowing Navalny to leave Russia which we were told at the time by Navalny’s team were evidence of the Kremlin’s cruelty are now to be understood as part of an ingenious plan to allow Navanly to live and leave Russia; and, of course, why the Kremlin would risk the hugely important economic project Nord Stream 2 to ‘warn’ Navalny.
The theory as presented is full of holes and is extremely implausible. The most worrying aspect is it is quite possible that British intelligence is so intellectually weak that they actually believe this.
(Finally; the observant reader will notice that this website is not saying that this is not what happened; just that it is politically unlikely and that there are several unexplained anomalies in the story told by Navalny’s team which merit investigation first).