I really shouldn’t get worried about anything that the Guardian prints about Russia – which is a stream of organised agi-prop and/or propaganda mixed up with low-quality reporting designed to meet an editorial demand for anything negative about the Russian state. This is especially noticeable in the case of Luke Harding who appears to be entirely credulous and entirely credulous in entirely one direction – a process which he describes simultaneously as “doing empirical journalism” and “joining the dots”.
But people probably (possibly) read this stuff and believe it.
“He was remanded in custody and jailed last week for two years and eight months for allegedly violating his parole. At the time Navalny was in a coma, receiving treatment at Berlin’s Charité hospital.” – No. The request for him to return and meet his probation officer was issued after an article appeared in The Lancet describing his recovery from the alleged poisoning. See this post from his lawyer dated 28/12/20 which shows how he had just received the request for Navalny to return and the Lancet article dated 22/12/20 – which contains the phrase “patient made a very favourable outcome”. (This Guardian article by the slightly more reliable Andrew Roth also makes it clear that Navalny had already been released from hospital when he was asked to return by the Penal service). If you are going to print sheer fictions it might be advisable to check that colleagues have not already directly contradicted them. Mr Harding’s copy belongs in a novel. A good tale – but not, in fact, true. And easily disprovable.
“A team from Russia’s FSB spy agency poisoned Navalny last summer with the nerve agent novichok, while he was travelling in Siberia.” Zero proof for this assertion. Simply none. It is the way that conjectures (nothing wrong with that) are read as fact which makes you concerned for Mr Harding’s mental balance.
“speaking from inside a guarded glass cage” – they must have been disappointed that Navalny appeared in court in a glass cage. It deprives them of the opportunity to use their usual trick of pretending that there is something unusual about defendants appearing in a cage in Russian courts. Even so Luke Harding manages to dress it up – “guarded glass cage”. Oh – just like in England then.
“His detention and court appearance prompted the biggest street protests in Russia since 2011-2012, with demonstrations in 180 towns and cities across Russia.” – I wonder where the source for this came from. Not from a group linked to Navalny by any chance? (And since the protests are ongoing Mr Harding needs to use the Present Perfect here).
“Navalnaya was herself arrested on 23 January while attending a rally in Moscow. She was later fined 20,000 roubles (£196) for taking part in what prosecutors said was an “unsanctioned protest”.” – this is another staple of this kind of garbage. (Sorry). There is a clear law in Russia – protests have to be cleared with the local authorities first. If not then they are ‘unsanctioned’ and attending them is a civil offence. It is not that prosecutors said it was an “unsanctioned protest” and it doesn’t need to be in inverted commas. It was an unsanctioned protest. (In the middle of a global viral epidemic – when no protests of any kind are allowed in England). The logic here is that Harding denies Russia the right to make and operate its own laws. So much for ‘democracy’.
One final thought. Liberal journalists are telling us that the charges against Navalny are political. They are describing him as a “political prisoner”. Yet complete silence on the fact that in France Marie Le Pen – a potential Presidential candidate who has a real chance of posing a serious challenge to Macron is currently being tried on trumped up charges of sharing ISIS images. She used some images not to boost ISIS but to make a political point in response to a journalist who compared her movement to ISIS.