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Journalists outside of the Charité Hospital in Berlin, where Alexey Navalny is being treated. August 24, 2020.

‘The patient’ The Kremlin’s spokesman is still fielding questions about Navalny’s poisoning, while refusing to say his name

Source: Meduza
Journalists outside of the Charité Hospital in Berlin, where Alexey Navalny is being treated. August 24, 2020.
Journalists outside of the Charité Hospital in Berlin, where Alexey Navalny is being treated. August 24, 2020.
Michele Tantussi / Reuters / Scanpix / LETA

It’s been six days since Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny fell violently ill and went into a coma, and during today’s conversation with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, journalists asked about little else. 

After Navalny was transported to Berlin for treatment, the Charité Hospital released a statement confirming clinical evidence of poisoning. According to the German doctors, Navalny was poisoned with a “cholinesterase inhibitor,” and there’s a variety of substances that fall into this category. That said, they’ve been treating him with atropine — a medication used as an antidote to certain types of nerve agent and pesticide poisonings. 

In response, officials in Germany, the United States, France, and the European Union urged the Russian authorities to find and punish those responsible. And while Peskov maintained that Moscow also wants to know what happened to Alexey Navalny, he also said it’s too soon to definitively call it a poisoning.

“We are also interested in understanding and determining what happened to the patient [Navalny]. But we can’t do this yet,” Peskov insisted. “Various hasty formulations, which are being so abundantly used, about the fact that there is a high probability of poisoning and so on, well, we’re being patient about this, but we strongly disagree with it at this stage. The poisonous substance needs to be found.”

Asked if Moscow worries that the circumstances surrounding Navalny’s illness will worsen Russia’s relations with Western countries, Peskov said that “there’s no reason for this” and repeated his previous statement about not jumping to conclusions. 

“We are categorically opposed to anyone, let’s say, sticking any kind of labels on the current situation, that is, calling it poisoning [when] it has yet to be confirmed as poisoning,” Peskov stressed. “Of course, we’re also interested… This is a Russian citizen, who is in a coma. And we would like to find out what caused this coma.”

Drawing attention to Peskov repeatedly referring to Alexey Navalny as “the patient” rather than saying his name, a journalist from the BBC asked him why: “Isn’t it time to break the tradition? Especially [since] the guy’s in such a state, in a coma.”

“He’s a patient and he’s sick. That’s what we’re calling him. And we still wish him a speedy recovery,” Peskov responded, adding that calling Navalny by his name wouldn’t “change the facts of the matter.”

Referring to today’s announcement that Russian oligarch Evgeny Prigozhin had personally acquired the rights to the 88-million-ruble ($1.2 million) debt that Navalny, Lyubov Sobol, and the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) owed the “Moskovsky Shkolnik” food production facility, a journalist from Ekho Moskvy asked if Prigozhin, who is known for his links to Putin, had coordinated this statement with the Kremlin.

“Prigozhin is an entrepreneur and a businessman [...] In this case he is taking actions, which he considers necessary based on his own interests. And so this has nothing to do with us and it can’t have anything to do with the president,” Peskov said. 

Asked about yesterday’s statement from State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin about Russian officials planning to investigate the circumstances surrounding Navalny’s poisoning for evidence of foreign political interference, Peskov suddenly became less dismissive of the poisoning scenario. 

“Remember, from the very beginning I told you that the theory of poisoning as the cause of the patient’s condition was one of the first our doctors considered, when they were looking for any poisonous substances in his system [and] doing tests,” the Kremlin spokesman recalled. “Hypothetically speaking, if we came to the final conclusion that a poisoning occurred and the poisonous substances were to be established, then, of course, there’s reason to think [about whose interests it served].”

“But I repeat once again: unfortunately, so far this is just one theory, which doesn’t [provide] an answer to this question, since there’s no poisonous substance and since the exact cause of this coma has yet to be established,” Peskov added.

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