Alexei Navalny: How his team found Novichok bottle evidence in Tomsk

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By way of Andrey Kozenko
BBC Russian

Alexei Navalny pictured at a hospital in Berlin. 22 Sept 2020symbol copyrightEPA
symbol captionAlexei Navalny shared an image of himself taking a look gaunt and skinny however status unaided
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Russia’s essential opposition determine Alexei Navalny is now at the mend. He has left clinic in Berlin after a month of remedy for nerve agent poisoning in Siberia in August.

First of all, suspicion targeted at the cup of tea he had inebriated at Tomsk airport. But it surely was once the swift reaction of a member of his staff that satisfied German investigators that the Novichok agent were administered previous than that.

As information emerged that he had fallen right into a coma, Maria Pevchikh knew she needed to act speedy. She rushed to the lodge room he had looked at of that morning.

Maria Pevchikhsymbol copyrightIgor Tsvetkov
symbol captionMaria Pevchikh made up our minds that if the Kremlin critic were poisoned there needed to be lines

“It was once no longer a choice we needed to consider – it was once glaring and it was once the one means shall we act in that state of affairs,” she advised BBC Russian.

Mr Navalny, 44, were heading again to Moscow, leaving individuals of his FBK anti-corruption basis at the back of within the Tomsk lodge to complete operating on a neighborhood investigation.

Maria Pevchikh runs his staff. They’ve launched many detailed experiences alleging corruption and abuse of energy at quite a lot of ranges of the Russian political and trade status quo.

“Alexei was once a wholesome guy, we were with him for the previous a number of days, first in Novosibirsk after which in Tomsk.”

“Wholesome folks don’t fall right into a coma for no reason why. We knew one thing was once very mistaken. And, in fact, that is Russia. To my horror, poisoning right here is sort of the norm.”

If he were poisoned, she reasoned there would must be lines.

How the bottles had been discovered

A member of team of workers went with them to the room as soon as the Navalny staff defined what had took place, she mentioned.

“First of all, they wouldn’t allow us to in, so we guarded the door to ensure no-one else were given in first. We actually positioned a chair in entrance of the door and took turns sitting on it.”

They’d no longer deliberate what to do however as they entered the room they filmed the whole lot as they went, later posting what they noticed on Instagram.

“We walked in, we had the sense to deliver rubber gloves, because of coronavirus we all the time have them with us now.”

The bottles were carefully wrapped up in the hotel room by Mr Navalny's teamsymbol copyrightInstagram/Navalny
symbol captionThe bottles had been sparsely wrapped up within the lodge room by means of Mr Navalny’s staff

The rest the opposition chief would possibly have touched was once amassed.

“We amassed the whole lot he will have touched.”

Within the video, individuals of Navalny staff can also be observed packing quite a lot of items, together with 3 plastic water bottles, into blue plastic luggage.

The voice of a lodge team of workers member can also be heard: “In case you are taking anything else, you want police permission for that, I’ve been advised by means of the (lodge) director.”

A Navalny staffer replies: “Sadly, we can’t fulfil this call for.”

A view of Xander Hotel in Tomsk where Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny was allegedly poisonedsymbol copyrightTASS by means of Getty Pictures
symbol captionThe Navalny staff were staying at this lodge in Tomsk

Maria Pevchikh and her colleagues assumed there was once little likelihood they might in finding anything else helpful. As for with the ability to take away what that they had amassed, smuggle it out and cross it on for exam, the hope of that was once “much more microscopic”.

How the proof left Russia

There are not any direct flights from Tomsk to Omsk. Alexei Navalny’s aircraft had most effective landed in Omsk in an emergency.

“We drove to Novosibirsk and flew to Omsk from there,” mentioned Ms Pevchikh.

The whole lot that they had accumulated from the room, together with the 3 water bottles, was once “strategically positioned” within the staff’s baggage, to draw as little consideration as conceivable.

When Russian government ultimately allowed the comatose opposition chief and his closest circle of relatives and co-workers to fly from Omsk to Berlin, she too was once on that flight.

“Had we no longer taken the ones bottles out of Tomsk, they might have disappeared with out hint by means of now,” she insists.

Quote from Maria Pevchikh
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That act of taking the bottle out of the lodge room, then taking the lengthy path to Berlin, has supplied important proof that he was once poisoned prior to he reached Tomsk airport, she believes. However the bottle was once no longer the supply of the poison itself.

All the way through this time, Mr Navalny was once in a coma. German scientists mentioned that they had established “unequivocal evidence” that he was once poisoned by means of a Novichok nerve agent, and their findings were subsidized up by means of laboratories in France and Sweden.

However the Kremlin says assessments on samples taken from him in Omsk have known no poisonous ingredients in his frame. Even if Russia does no longer utterly reject the concept he was once poisoned, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says Germany wishes handy over knowledge “which sadly has thus far been denied to us.”

Unanswered questions

What isn’t recognized is how and when Alexei Navalny was once poisoned, and whether or not any individual else was once in peril both of poisoning or contamination.

Organic guns professional Vladimir Uglev previous advised the BBC that he idea this Novichok case was once extra centered than the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury in March 2018. Whilst they had been attacked by means of a liquid, the Tomsk assault was once other and due to this fact much less bad to others, he argues.

German army emergency personnel load portable isolation unit (Epi Shuttle) into their ambulance that was used to transport Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny at Charite hospital on August 22, 2020 in Berlin, Germanysymbol copyrightEPA
symbol captionMr Navalny was once airlifted to Berlin two days after he fell right into a coma on 20 August

Whilst Mr Navalny’s anti-corruption colleagues had been cautious to make use of gloves within the Tomsk lodge room, his press-secretary has mentioned that the lines of Novichok had been discovered most effective on some of the water bottles and no longer on any of his different property.

German investigators have no longer had get admission to to the garments he was once dressed in at the day he collapsed, and Mr Navalny this week appealed for his or her go back from Russia. Well being officers advised Tass information company the clothes were seized by means of Russian investigators and so they not knew the place they had been.

For now the Kremlin critic is to stay in Germany to finish his rehabilitation however intends to go back house.

“I’m hoping someday we learn how Alexei was once poisoned,” says the staff’s chief. “Now we haven’t any thought. And it isn’t as much as us to research this.”

media captionLaura Foster explains how the Novichok nerve agent works

Similar Subjects


  • Alexei Navalny
  • Germany
  • Russia
  • Berlin

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