From the moment Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny abruptly fell ill last week, the top suspect in what immediately looked like a case of poisoning was President Vladimir Putin and his regime in Moscow. That suspicions quickly centered on a possible assassination attempt by the Kremlin is another damning indictment for a president who has sought to earn international respect.
A government whose critics routinely die mysterious deaths, or survive attempts on their lives, reveals itself to be outside the bounds of legitimate democratic behavior. That people suspect Putin orders the assassination of his domestic foes shows the grotesque image he has forged.
Navalny became severely ill during a flight from Siberia to Moscow, soon after it took off. He had drunk a cup of tea at the airport. The plane made an emergency landing in the Siberian city of Omsk, where he was admitted to a hospital. With Navalny in a coma, his family and supporters made arrangements to transport him to Germany. But Russian authorities interfered, delaying his movement and sparking accusations that their plan was to allow the poison to become undetectable. Sinister masked men kept guard not only over Navalny, but also over the doctors treating him in Omsk, ensuring they did not stray from the Kremlin’s script. Some doctors made dismissive statements about the possibility of poisoning, while the Russian news agency TASS, in an effort to smear him, suggested Navalny was suffering the repercussions of using hallucinogenic drugs.