Monday, October 25

Putin’s poisons | Opinion

Participation by videoconference of Alexéi Navalni in a session of the Foreign Affairs committee of the European Parliament last month.
Participation by videoconference of Alexéi Navalni in a session of the Foreign Affairs committee of the European Parliament last month.OLIVIER HOSLET / EFE

It will be difficult for Vladimir Putin to shake off his reputation as a poisoner. There will never be a smoking pistol, that is, a credible proof and with judicial value that proves the presidential order to liquidate the most prominent opposition politician, Alexei Navalni, with novichok, a lethal toxic agent, which is only manufactured in Russia and at the disposal of its secret services. And even in the event that someone could get hold of such evidence, there is no judicial or parliamentary institution in Russia that can hold them accountable, so that only international sanctions and travel bans, such as those that already have, have any denouncing effect. the European Union issued against the head of the Russian secret services and five other people from the presidential environment.

The history of the Russian Federation in the last 20 years, with Putin in command from the Presidency or at the head of the Council of Ministers, is full of famous antecedents. The first, that of journalist Anna Politovskaia, killed in 2006 by hired thugs but previously threatened with poisoning in 2004. Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian agent who had defected to the United Kingdom, fell and then died in 2006 as a result of an attack. with polonium, a radioactive agent. In 2018, double agent Serguei Skripal and his daughter survived a toxic attack in Salysbury, UK, using novichok, the poison used with Navalni.

The key to the poison is to hit the target without leaving evidence, but in Navalni’s case the most consistent evidence is the victim herself, who managed to survive and has even been able to collect evidence of the direct involvement of the State services. Along with the desire to clip the wings of any alternative leadership, Putin has also deployed a whole panoply of initiatives to reduce the opposition’s room for maneuver, whether by tightening electoral laws, restricting the right to demonstrate or proposing a law that converts their adversaries in “foreign agents”. It is the other poison that he has injected into a democracy that is fading as such by leaps and bounds.

The Russian Government’s response to the accumulation of suspicions and even evidence is known and routine, especially that of the identification of the perpetrators by the journalistic consortium Bellingcat. Except for the Kremlin, everyone is a suspect for Putin. Last week, at his usual end-of-year press conference, the Russian president addressed the press on this disturbing issue with an even more disturbing response: “Why is it necessary to poison him? It’s ridiculous. If it had been necessary, it would have been carried to the end ”. Poison kills, and it is a deterrent that Putin knows how to use. Also against democracy.

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