Nicholas Kollerstrom, Ph.D., Alexei Navalny and the Novichok Hoax

Nicholas Kollerstrom, Ph.D.

The Salisbury Novichok hoax had worked well in creating a wave of anti-Russian hysteria – over 150 Russian diplomats expelled and only the cat had died[1] – so, why not try it again? The looming event was the completion of the Nordstream II gas pipeline from Russia to Germany. It was a matter of supreme importance for the Empire, that this project be cancelled. Were it to be completed, there would be a real danger of world peace breaking out. Nothing would be more valuable for the stability of the world, than a slowly growing trust and friendship between the two great nations of Germany and Russia. These two nations have both been heavily demonized by the US/UK in the past, in the 20th century. A reliable flow of natural gas in a stable manner between the two nations would have more effect than the words of politicians.

Instead of spending trillions on NATO military hardware, with US weapons being moved ever closer to the borders of Russia threatening war, European nations could slowly come able to experience Russia as a valuable trading partner. Instead of Germany having US and British troops permanently stationed there and continually rehearsing war-games, as if WW2 had hardly ended, Germany would be able to become a more pacific and independent nation, able to determine its own future without foreign military occupation.

Germany is endeavouring to move away from its reliance upon nuclear power and fossil fuels, and that might only be possible with such a pipeline. And yet the EU parliament is now instructing Germany to abandon the project – with the implication that it would instead buy the far more expensive US ‘freedom gas’ that comes from fracking! Germany as an industrial nation depends upon its industries having a reputation for reliability and adherence to promises. It may have the best science and technology in the world, but for its industry to flourish it also needs a reputation for dependability. That is not acquired overnight but takes years, as clients come to reckon that in fact German firms will deliver as promised. And yet Germany is now being instructed by the EU to break and abandon contracts with around a hundred different companies (it is estimated) who are presently labouring to complete the pipeline. How would that affect Germany’s hard-won reputation in the field of commerce? One thing’s for sure: the voices calling for Germany to abandon the pipeline project do not care!

A subtle and quite clever hoax was perpetrated involving the poisoning of Alexay Navalny. We may best analyse this by comparing it with the UK’s Skripal hoax. We start with the chronology.

August 20: a plane carrying Alexay Navalny from Siberia to Moscow makes an emergency landing in Omsk because he had fallen into a coma. He was quickly taken to a hospital where they found dangerously low blood sugar levels. He was put on a ventilator.

August 21: A German ambulance plane lands at Omsk airport and waits, desiring to transport the comatose patient to Berlin. The hospital does not agree. Navalny aides then ‘denounced the medical verdict as a ploy to stall until any poison would no longer be found in his body’: thus the claim of poisoning was first first made at Omsk, despite doctors at the hospital failing to confirm this. It was alleged that the poison had come from tea he had drunk at the Tomsk airport in Siberia.

August 22: he is flown to Germany for treatment.

August 24: German doctors declare that they found signs of Navalny’s intoxication with substances from the cholinesterase inhibitors group.

September 2: the German Government issued a press release, saying ‘a special Bundeswehr laboratory carried out a toxicological test using samples from Alexej Nawalny. Thereby the unequivocal proof of a chemical nerve warfare agent of the Novichok group was provided.’

September 3: the UK government said that there was ‘unequivocal proof’ that the Russian had been poisoned. The EU issued a declaration stating: ‘The  EU  strongly condemns the assassination attempt of Alexei Navalny, calls for a joint international response & reserves the right to take appropriate actions.’

September 4: ambassadors of NATO member states decide to convene a “special meeting” in Brussels.

September 6th OPCW comes to Berlin and takes blood samples from Navalny.

September 9th: German Defence Ministry announces that the results of the testing of Navalny’s blood and urine, plus a water bottle which had been brought to Berlin at the same time as Navalny, would not be handed to the Russian Government, as it has been requesting.

September 10th: Angela Merkel accuses Russia of poisoning and threatens sanctioning of the Nord Stream II gas pipeline

September 14: France backs up poison claim: ‘French President Emmanuel Macron’s office said he had expressed “deep concern over the criminal act” that targeted Navalny.’

September 15: Navalny emerges from his coma.

September 17:  EU Parliament expresses ‘ … utmost concern about the repeated use of chemical nerve agents against Russian citizens’  and calls for halting of the Nord Stream 2 project.

October 6: OPEC declared that Navalny’s blood contained a ‘cholinesterase inhibitor’ that was ‘not listed in the Annex on Chemicals to the Convention’ – ie not a recognized poison. They did not as such confirm the presence of Novichok.

Before and After

Figure 1: Navalny before

Alexei Navalny may be the most prominent Russian dissident and his weekly videos have been getting around a million views, based on his ‘Anti-Corruption Foundation’ (the ‘FKB’ ). He is well-funded by Western sources and in 2010 was awarded a Yale Scholarship, i.e he is regarded as a politically useful tool of the US. But would Putin feel he was enough of a threat to kill him? And for such a seemingly arbitrary act of political murder did the Russian state decide to use ‘Novichok’ to poison him, a decision taken in spite of the facts that a) Novichok had dramatically failed to work in their alleged murder of the Skripals and b) It has already been widely publicly associated with Russia? That does not make a lot of sense.

Navalny falls unconscious several hours after allegedly taking the ‘Novichok,’ succumbing to this deadly nerve poison although no-one else around him is infected. For comparison, the Skripal story originally had the couple poisoned while in a restaurant, then when that appeared too unlikely the poison was alleged to be in their home: creating a similar several-hour interval between the alleged poisoning and the sudden effect. The parallels between the two stories lead one to suspect the same scriptwriter.

To no-one’s surprise, the Novichok which didn’t kill its alleged target last time, doesn’t kill its alleged target this time either. It has to be the least effective assassination tool ever! Navalny remained unconscious for 26 days as likewise Julia Skripal, two years earlier, stayed under for 25 days. As Julia Skripal was soon seen alive and well after her poisoning, looking younger and more debonair than before – so likewise we soon see pictures of Navalny recovered and nonchalantly strolling around!

Figure 2: Navalny and Julia; Navalny strolling.

Was he mentally harmed? Emerging from his coma he found it hard to find words: ‘Although I understood in general what the doctor wanted, I did not understand where to get the words. What part of the head do they appear in? I also did not know how to express my despair and, therefore, simply kept silent. Now I’m a guy whose legs are shaking when he walks up the stairs, but he thinks: ‘Oh, this is a staircase! They go up it.’[2] He has, I suggest, no idea who has done what to him – and so will naturally blame the Kremlin!

The initial story of him poisoned from a cup of tea at the airport lasted for several weeks, then it morphed into a left-behind bottle of water in his hotel room, contaminated with Novichok on it. Don’t even ask where that bottle of water is or who has got it – it is as invisible and forever-unseeable as was the perfume bottle allegedly brought over by the two Russians who were said to have poisoned the Skripals. No CCTV exists to show him drinking from the bottles or having it with him. The later water-bottle story had the advantage of supplying a sample of the deadly ‘Novichok,’ allegedly matched up with what they found in Navalny.

Marina Pevchikh    

 

Figure 3: Two images of the elusive Marina Pevchikh (left, as featured in Daily Mail).

Marina Pevchikh, described by the Daily Mail as the ‘glamorous UK-based Navalny employee, 33’ (17 Sept.), lives in London and would travel to Moscow several times a year. There are not many photos of her, despite her being a close associate of Navalny, aged 44. Putting her name in Google brings up images of her with Navalny looking as if she were close to him (NB, I re-checked this today 30th September and these have gone, in fact almost all images of her are gone and one is merely shown images of Mr Navalny). She is said to lead the investigative department of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation and her father Konstanin Pevchikh is the head and founder of several biological labs (!). She acquired a degree in sociology from Moscow State University then later graduated in political science at the London School of Economics.  Her record in the UK reveals a working association with anti-Russian regime-change organisations. Here are some Russian comments about her:

‘She accompanied Navalny very closely during his stay in Siberia and spent the nights in his hotel room. She has tight connections to the Russian oligarch Khodorkovsky, who lives in the UK and to Vladimir Ashurkov, who is the head of Navalny’s bureau against corruption.’ (RT blog comment).

German officials refused to comment upon this close associate of Navalny. The associate of the Kremlin critic was reportedly together with Navalny in Tomsk before his alleged poisoning. Unlike all other individuals who interacted with him on that day, she did not cooperate with Russian investigators and quickly left the country for Germany.

How did a Russian citizen manage to obtain a permit for entering the country so fast, especially with Covid-19 restrictions supposedly in place? Little is actually known about Pevchikh, who is believed to hold a UK residence permit – or even citizenship. Moreover, only a few photos of her exist, despite her close association and repeated trips alongside Navalny, who is a very public figure.

Comments about the Navalny affair tend to omit mention of this woman, although she has to be the link to British intelligence, relevant in view of the many similarities to the Skripal affair. Author John Helmer earlier wrote the book Skripal in Prison about the British Novichok hoax two years earlier, so he is well qualified to evaluate this matter. Quoting from him:

This evidence – the only evidence available to the Munich laboratory, and then the French and Swedish labs which had not been hydrolysed — was the bottle which had been brought to Berlin with Navalny, carried either by his wife Yulia Navalnaya or by the witness who was with him in Tomsk and is the only one of the six staff from Tomsk to have accompanied him on the aircraft to Berlin. That is Maria Pevchikh.

This evidence lacks the required chain of custody for prosecution of a crime in a court of law. Also, the bottle and Pevchikh appear to have disappeared. Pevchikh left the alleged crime scene after spending the night with Navalny in Tomsk. As he flew towards Moscow, Pevchikh drove to Novosibirsk. She then flew to Omsk where Navalny’s flight had been diverted and he was hospitalised. On August 22 Pevchikh was aboard the charter flight with Navalny from Omsk to Berlin, and then arrived at the Charité Hospital with his wife Yulia Navalnaya.

Pevchikh appears to have left Germany and is now in the UK. Every other witness, including five of Navalny’s staff who had been with him in Tomsk, have been interviewed by police in Russia, and they are talking freely to the Russian and western press. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on state television: “we questioned those five people who accompanied him to the plane, and took part in the events of the days before Navalny boarded the plane. We posed questions to those who waited for the departure from Tomsk to Moscow and went to a bar with him. We found out what they ordered and what he drank. As you know, the sixth lady that accompanied him just fled. They say it was she who gave the bottle to the German laboratory. All this was done. Even if all this were called a ‘criminal case’, we cannot do anything else.” (Monday 13th September)

The “sixth lady” is Pevchikh. Her record in the UK reveals her working association with anti-Russian regime-change organisations of Yevgeny Chichvarkin, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation; Navalny’s staff claim Pevchikh has been employed as head of investigations for their group.

The plastic bottle of drinking water was not presented at the Omsk hospital, but was taken on the private jet charter flight with Navalny to Berlin on August 22. Ms Pevchikh and Navalny’s wife reportedly had ‘the bottle.’At Berlin, they arrived in the airport motorcade at the clinic.

This all sounds rather pre-arranged.

Proof of Guilt

As with the Skripal affair, no-one can establish a credible timeline of events. On the 23rd When Navalny had been moved to a Berlin hospital, the media were putting out the  cup-of-tea-at-the-airport story: he is ‘feared to have drunk tea laced with poison’ and then later “His supporters suspect he was poisoned when he drank a cup of tea at Tomsk Airport in Siberia on August 20.” (Mail 23rd and 29th) If they were suspecting the cup of tea, why would they rush to the hotel?

A report by the American Association for the Advancement of Science for 8th September has him poisoned by ‘drinking a cup of tea at a Siberian airport.’ On September 10th the Mail explained that this was a yet more deadly form of Novichok, which someone at the airport had slipped into his tea – while surrounded by half a dozen of his aides! Not until the 17th ie almost a month after the event, did the cup of tea vanish. Instead, the source of poison was now a plastic bottle of water. A video showed members of his team searching the room he had just left in the Xander Hotel in Tomsk on August 20 – being directed by Marina Pevchikh – and finding three left-behind bottles of water.

She was wearing a Rolex watch in the video, and close-up enlargement shows its time at between 9 and 9.30 am.  One other worker has a watch and again enlargement showed it reading a time of around 9 O’clock. On that morning, Navalny’s plane which took off at 7.55 am would still have been in the air. That is long before any poisoning had been alleged and indicates a staged event.

There is a severe temporal dislocation in this story. Why would they at once collect several water bottles using sterile gloves, and then take these bottles all the way to Berlin on the 22nd – and if so, how come the world was still being told the poisoned cup of tea story for several weeks after that? What would his team be doing at the hotel if they believed he had been poisoned at the airport? Will the hotel confirm that they had not attempted to tidy up the just-vacated room, and that several partly-drunk water bottles were left behind?

The ‘Navalny team’ first put out a statement on 17th September that several bottles of water had been recovered from the Xander Hotel where he stayed in Tomsk, Siberia, and that using gloves they had carefully put the bottles into paper bags for transport. ‘We drove to Novosibirsk and flew to Omsk from there’ explained Ms Pevchikh.[3]

On this hopefully final version of the story (17th September) the water bottles were empty, and the Novichok on the outside of them! The news headline became ‘Navalny aides say nerve agent was found on hotel water bottle.’ Quoting from a couple of pro-Navalny Russian media outlets, Meduza and Proekt, the Meduza ‘… reached out to Maria Pevihikh, who leads the investigative department of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (the FBK). She accompanied Navalny on his trip to Siberia and was with him in Tomsk.’ From her they gathered that she (or Navalny’s aides) had taken three empty water bottles, which Navalny drank from, from his hotel room. Proekt’s investigation says the poison was found on the bottle rather than in the water itself. These empty bottles had been transported to Berlin. On this version he absorbed the toxin though his hands – which no hospital has suggested. But the final OPCW report on October 6th  totally failed to endorse the water-bottle story, with samples only analysed from his blood and urine.

Russian blame?         

If Russians were intending to kill him, would the plane he was in really have performed an emergency landing so that Navalny could be taken straight to a hospital for medical care? Would they really have allowed a German plane to land at Omsk and wait there at the airport while he was being treated in the hospital and would they have yielded to his friends’ demands to let him be flown to Berlin?

A policy of non-collaboration was swiftly decided upon by the German Defence Ministry:

‘On Wednesday, [10th September] the German Defence Ministry announced that the results of the testing of Navalny’s blood and urine, plus a water bottle which had appeared in Berlin at the same time as Navalny, would not be handed to the Russian Government, as it has been requesting. The results had been prepared by the Defence Ministry’s chemical warfare laboratory in Munich, the Institut für Pharmakologie und Toxikologie der Bundeswehr (IPTB), and announced on September 2’.

Had they found the same toxin in the bottled water as in his blood? The analysis was done by NATO medics in a chemical warfare laboratory! This has to remind us of Porton Down, Britain’s Bio-warfare centre, doing the Skripal blood-analysis of the ‘Novichok’ – where it was widely suspected that they were more likely to have supplied the Novichok than detected it.

Russian medics had analysed Navalny’s blood and urine, where his coma could have been introduced by a diabetes condition of low blood sugar. The Omsk Hospital report concluded, “cholinesterase inhibitors were not detected in blood and urine” and that meant, no ‘Novichok.’

By this time Russia had grown sceptical of the NATO-EU narrative and they asked

Why was Mr.Navalny upon his arrival to Berlin escorted to the Charité Hospital by police and special service agents? Why were extraordinary security measures taken and the hospital itself turned into a high-security facility, well before the “discovery” of “Novichok”? Does it mean that Berlin knew something that neither Moscow nor Omsk were aware of? It is worth noting that more than 60 biochemical tests were conducted in the Omsk Hospital, none showing any sign of poisoning.

What is behind the story of the “bottle of water”, ostensibly with traces of poison on it? No CCTV or photo evidence shows Mr.Navalny using it before departure at Tomsk airport. If used before that or aboard the Moscow-bound plane, how did it get to Berlin?[4]

Clearly, this was a pre-prepared plot, with military personnel taking over a Berlin hospital. We are here reminded of the British army’s chemical-biological warefare war-games on Salisbury plain that synchronised with the Skripal story. Pictures of the bottles half-drunk water in a hotel room were released, where supposedly Navalny had slept before his flight. After the plane landed, and the hospital had not found any signs of poisoning, why did the colleagues of Navalny suddenly decide to seek for signs of his having been poisoned with something and in case the cleaners had not yet tidied up the vacant room?

The Berlin Charité Hospital’s press release was dated August 24 and unsigned by a treating doctor or toxicologist. It claimed “clinical findings indicate poisoning with a substance from the group of cholinesterase inhibitors. The specific substance involved remains unknown”. The physicians involved remain anonymous and the Bundeswehr biochemical warfare lab that delivered the diagnosis refuses to release a detailed report on how it analyzed the samples.

Throughout this whole affair, Russia is the one country involved which has preserved customary principles of diplomacy. It seems to be the one country whose spokespersons are worth listening to, because they still aspire to integrity and honesty in their speech; which is in itself a very strange situation. Here is what the Russian Foreign Secretary Lavrov stated on 11th September, in his usual polite fashion:

We are interested in receiving, if not directly, then through the OPCW, information that Germany is for some reason so painstakingly concealing.

One may readily understand why Germany could not allow the sharing of its bio-medical analysis of the Navalny blood/urine tests. Russians would want to ascertain as to whether they had really received ‘water bottles’ and if so when, and what was found on them? As the water bottle story only appeared several weeks after the event, the German authorities would not be in a hurry to answer that. American firms produced and patented several kinds of ‘Novichok’ in 2015 – whereas Russia does not have a record of producing it – and so the Russians would want to compare the Novichok found with these formulae.

Germany is violating the terms of the Chemical Weapons Convention (Article VII) by thus refusing to share its data with Russia.

Traditionally the home of philosophy, Germany had long enjoyed a reputation for honesty amongst its politicians, now evidently gone. Was it so easy for them to be manipulated, after a little arm-twisting by shadowy Atlanticists? What could be more evanescent and groundless than the bottle of water story? Obviously it quickly vanished – together with the elusive Marina Pevchikh.

Navalny accused the Russian government of having poisoned him on October 1st and unwisely a Russian Government statement hit back averring a CIA involvement:

Probably, it is not the patient [Navalny] who works for the Western special services, but that the Western intelligence services who work with him – this would be more correct [to say],” Dmitry Peskov explained.  “I can even be specific: these days, specialists from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States of America are working with him.

But surely, that cannot be shown? Navalny replied on that same day –

This is a direct allegation from a government official. Therefore, first of all, I am taking legal action against Peskov. And secondly, I demand that the proof and facts that suggest I am ‘working with specialists from the CIA’ are published. Put it straight on television, in prime time. You have my permission”.

The near-completion of the NordStream II pipeline is the most compelling reason as to why Russia would not have ordered such an operation. Furthermore the recovering Mr Navalny could ask himself, why was he flown to Germany? He is after all not German. He was flown there on a pre-prepared plane because this entire operation was designed to change the mind of Germany – and cancel the ten billion Euros Nord Stream II project.

The Ambiguous OPCW Verdict

A greatly delayed announcement came from OPCW the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons on the 6th of October, very vague about what had been found in his blood:

The results of the analysis by the OPCW designated laboratories of biomedical samples collected by the OPCW team and shared with the Federal Republic of Germany confirm that the biomarkers of the cholinesterase inhibitor found in Mr Navalny’s blood and urine samples have similar structural characteristics as the toxic chemicals belonging to schedules 1.A.14 and 1.A.15 that were added to the Annex on Chemicals to the Convention during the Twenty-Fourth Session of the Conference of the States Parties in November 2019. This cholinesterase inhibitor is not listed in the Annex on Chemicals to the Convention.

The important statement here, is that what they have detected was ‘not listed’ in their list of recognized poisons, which presumably means that it wasn’t Novichok. One judgement here was:

the analysed compound is apparently not officially prohibited under the Chemical Weapons Convention.  As in the case of Skripal, when it is alleged to have been Novichok A234 ,  the OPCW does not use this term, nor does it speak directly of a chemical weapon, but rather  indeterminately of a toxic chemical.

The OPCW merely claims to have found “biomarkers” of Navalny’s metabolic disorder which may have been caused by some unidentified chemical poison. A chemist commented upon this:

How really “similar” was it to Novichok nerve agent?  For example, dichlorvos is also a cholinesterase inhibitor and “structurally similar” to many substances. The list of such substances is very wide.

There were therefore, he concluded, two likely options:

  • Drug addict Navalny got an overdose of something that he has become used to eat, drink, sniff etc.
  • Mariya Pevchikh, which spent the night in Navalny’s room before the incident, poisoned him.


If the latter, a British honey-trap! We look forward to developments in this story.

Endnotes

[1] Reminder: After Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were allegedly poisoned with ‘Novichok’ in Salisbury in March 2018. Russia was blamed without evidence and in consequence 150 Russian diplomats were expelled from NATO nations. Then in April Yulia reappeared and said she was fine and so was her father, but her cat had been put down.

[2]  20 September newseu: ‘Navalny now able to walk and talk after coma.’

[3] BBC News 23 September Navalny: ‘How his team found Novichok bottle’

[4] ‘Comments on the situation with Alexey Navalny’ 15 Sept.

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