On 20 August 2020, news appeared that the main Kremlin’s critic and leader of the opposition Aleksey Navalny is in intensive care after being poisoned. Navalny was on his way from Tomsk to Moscow when he suddenly fell ill. The airplane made an emergency landing in Omsk, where he was transported to an intensive care ward. It is assumed that Navalny had been poisoned with tea he had at the airport.
Knowing that Navalny is a thorn in the side of the Kremlin’s elite, including Putin, and that people who oppose the Kremlin tend to be poisoned, the natural assumption is that the Kremlin and Putin are to blame.
But this time something just does not add up, therefore I believe that the Kremlin and Putin may have nothing to do with this incident. On the contrary – at this moment, they are the ones most interested in Navalny recovering. I want to stress the words “at this moment”, but this doesn’t mean that Putin doesn’t entertain the thought of getting rid of Navalny.
First – the reaction to the incident. Crimes involving the Kremlin’s opponents are never really being actively investigated by the authorities. But this time it was reported that: “Yarmysh reported from the hospital that it has been flooded by policemen, and doctors are talking to them behind closed doors due to “several confidential elements”. There are now more policemen in the hospital than doctors. The Investigative Committee has just arrived.” We can see that this case involves uncharacteristic activity. In addition, on 21 August law enforcement institutions released a statement that “poison has been found in the body of Russian opposition figure Aleksey Navalny that endangers not only himself, but also everyone around him”. If the Kremlin was involved in the poisoning, would Russian authorities have made such a statement?
Second, and more important – we must look at everything that is happening as a whole. The Kremlin and Putin are engaged in an operation to “save” Lukashenko, which also poses a threat to the Kremlin. The events in Belarus have shown that in certain situations a mistake by the government can lead to widespread unrest which threatens the existence of the regime. Russia already saw protests because of its constitutional amendments, and in Khabarovsk these protests have been taking place for quite some time now. If it would turn out that the Kremlin and Putin had poisoned Navalny, or even worse – if he would die – there would be a high probability that Russia would we gripped by widespread unrest against Putin. I believe Putin is well aware of the “highly flammable” situation and because of that he wouldn’t make such a risky move. Of course, this is only true if Putin has managed to retain some degree of common sense.
This brings us to the question – who poisoned Aleksey Navalny? There is currently no evidence to answer this question, but we can put forward theories. There are two likely scenarios.
First, Putin’s loyal infantryman Ramzan Kadyrov once heard Putin saying that he wants Navalny gone. Kadyrov has stated numerous times that he is willing to carry out any special task assigned by Putin. And as a real infantryman, Kadyrov was too dumb to understand that this may not be the best time to deal with Navalny. It is no secret that Chechens have already been involved in the assassinations of the Kremlin’s opponents. We all remember the assassination of Boris Nemtsov – five Chechen men were sentenced to jail, and one of these men was a former member of the Chechen elite battalion Sever. This case also implied the involvement of Kadyrov.
The second one is a lot more complex. China for quite some time now has been doing everything it can to become a more important player, and this also means it will attempt to get rid of its competition. Some might think that Russia and China have friendly relations and that both countries are cooperating on a number of matters. This is true, but it doesn’t mean anything. If we remember history, Nazi Germany and the USSR also had friendly relations, but we all know how it ended. China’s aggressiveness in acquiring new territories and expanding its influence is visible to the naked eye. This has already affected Russia in a “softer form”, i.e. the Chinese are buying Russian land or renting it for long periods of time. It is clear that if Russia was gripped by unrest, it would be the perfect time for China to further its interests.
We must also mention that at the moment Russia and China have entirely different interests in regard to the US presidential election. Moscow is doing everything it can to ensure Donald Trump wins, while China does not want him to be reelected because he is unpredictable, and his policies are aimed at lessening China’s influence. It is a logical chain – Moscow backs Trump, and Trump does everything he can to decrease China’s influence.
The oblast Navalny visited has a large proportion of Chinese, as well as the Chinese government-funded Confucius Institute, which can be considered a propaganda tool of the Chinese government and which has also been accused of spying for China.
What if China became aware of Putin’s double standards regarding it and used the current situation to their advantage, understanding that if the Kremlin was to be blamed for Navalny’s death, it could lead to protests in Russia that would result in Putin being dethroned? You have to agree that this isn’t entirely impossible, since we know that China, just like Putin, is willing to kill to reach its goals.