A16 EZ RE THE WASHINGTON POST.WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 16 , 2020
BY ISABELLE KHURSHUDYAN
moscow — K remlin critic Alexei
Navalny on Tuesday issued his
first public statement since he
was poisoned in Russia last
month, writing on Instagram that
he’s able to breathe on his own
after weeks on a ventilator.
His spokeswoman, meanwhile,
confirmed that the opposition ac-
tivist planned to return to Russia
once he has recovered. “No other
options were ever considered,”
spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh
wrote on Twitter. Neither Navalny
nor Yarmysh indicated when he
Navalny, 44, became ill during
an Aug. 20 flight to Moscow from
the Siberian city of Tomsk. By the
time the plane made an emergen-
cy landing in nearby Omsk, Na-
valny was unconscious. Yarmysh
said she suspected he was poi-
soned when he drank a cup of tea
at the airport that morning.
Doctors in Omsk said they
found no traces of poison when
treating Navalny for two days, but
the Berlin hospital attributed his
condition to poison similar to the
Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok,
the same substance that Britain
said Russian state security agents
used on former Russian spy Ser-
gei Skripal and his daughter in
Salisbury, England, in 2018. On
Monday, Germany said French
and Swedish labs had confirmed
Charité hospital said Navalny
regained consciousness last week
after more than two weeks in a
medically induced coma and he
was able to get out of bed for short
periods on Monday.
In his Instagram post Tuesday
morning, Navalny is shown sit-
ting up in bed beside his wife and
two children and without breath-
ing aids. “Hello, it’s Navalny,” the
post says. “I miss you.”
“I still can’t do much, but yes-
terday I was able to breathe on my
own all day long,” it continues. “I
did not use any outside help, not
even the simplest valve in my
throat. I liked it very much. An
amazing, underestimated by
many process. I recommend it.”
Navalny’s allies have blamed
Russian President Vladimir Pu-
tin’s government for Navalny’s
poisoning, and an eventual re-
turn to Russia could be danger-
ous. Navalny, who was barred
from running for president in
2018, has been jailed and ha-
rassed. And this was not the first
time he has been the victim of a
toxic attack. In 2017, Navalny was
attacked with an antiseptic green
dye that damaged vision in one of
Navalny’s team has published
investigations exposing graft and
wrongdoing by Russia’s elite.
Over the past year, he has encour-
aged voters to back anti-Kremlin
candidates as a message of dis-
content over Russia’s sagging
economy and the unchecked
power of Putin, who has the po-
tential to stay in office until 2036
under constitutional changes ap-
proved this year.
won seats in regional elections
over the weekend on city councils
in Tomsk and Novosibirsk, the
two cities Navalny visited on the
trip just before he was poisoned.
Putin’s United Russia party lost
council majorities in both places.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry
Peskov, asked Tuesday about Na-
valny’s intention to return to the
country, said “any citizen of the
Russian Federation can leave
Russia and return to Russia of his
“If the health of this citizen of
the Russian Federation improves,
of course, this will make everyone
glad,” Peskov said.
Despite calls from the West to
investigate how Navalny was poi-
soned, Moscow has not opened a
criminal case and has denied any
official involvement. A Kremlin
summary of a phone conversa-
tion Monday between Putin and
French President Emmanuel Ma-
cron said: “The parties discussed
in detail the situation surround-
ing the Alexei Navalny case. Pu-
tin, in turn, reiterated that the
unsubstantiated and groundless
accusations made against Russia
in this context are inappropriate.”
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
told Russian state television Mon-
day that “Western partners are
glancing at us with arrogance, [as
if they] have a right to doubt our
correctness and professionalism.”
S ergei Naryshkin, director of
Russia’s Foreign Intelligence
Service, even hinted Tuesday that
Germany could be responsible for
Navalny’s poisoning. “It is a fact
that the moment Alexei Navalny
left the Russian territory, there
were no toxins in his system,” he
told reporters in Moscow. “There-
fore, we have many questions for
the German side.”
Germany’s justice ministry
said last week it had consented to
a request from Moscow for “mu-
tual legal assistance” in Navalny’s
case and had tasked Berlin state
authorities with handling it.
Berlin state prosecutors con-
firmed that they had been asked
to respond to the request and
provide information on Navalny’s
health, subject to his consent.
State prosecutors have yet to
meet with Navalny, according to a
Berlin justice department spokes-
man. If Navalny consents, spokes-
man Sebastian Brux said, infor-
mation on his medical condition
will be passed on.
Loveday Morris in Berlin contributed
to this report.
Navalny plans to return
to Russia after recovery
BY PAUL SONNE
AND JOHN HUDSON
Top officials at the State Depart-
ment have been shuttling back
and forth from Europe, asserting a
firm U.S. stance in response to two
watershed political moments in
Russia: the historic uprising in
neighboring Belarus and the poi-
soning of Russia’s foremost oppo-
But at the White House, Presi-
dent Trump has exhibited a far
more tepid reaction, saying he
“likes seeing democracy” when
asked about Belarus and failing to
affirm that Russian opposition fig-
ure Alexei Navalny was poisoned
with a nerve agent. Keeping with a
long-standing practice, he has not
issued any rebukes or warnings to
Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The situation shows how, faced
with two of the biggest political
events to shake Russia in years,
the Trump administration has
fallen back on a familiar pattern:
U.S. diplomats are mounting a
hawkish response, even as Trump
articulates a more Moscow-
friendly message. The result is a
paucity of presidential leadership
— and mixed messages to allies
“This is the story of the Trump
administration,” said Angela
Stent, a Russia scholar at George-
town University. “We have this bi-
furcated Russia policy, where the
president clearly has his agenda to
improve relations with Moscow,
but he hasn’t been able to imple-
ment it because it’s such a politi-
cally sensitive subject. And then
you have the State Department
and Defense Department with a
much tougher and more consis-
Stent said the same response
had been on display in recent
weeks, as the administration re-
acted to the uprising in Belarus
and Navalny’s poisoning. “The
president won’t say whether Na-
valny has been poisoned, and on
Belarus he won’t say anything
that’s critical of Putin,” Stent said.
“He’s ready to criticize Germany or
[German Chancellor Angela]
Merkel, who wants to import Rus-
sian gas, but not Putin.”
The administration has made
the No. 2 official at the State De-
partment, Deputy Secretary S te-
phen Biegun, the point person on
Russia. In recent weeks, he has
met with officials in Moscow and
Europe, as well as members of the
Belarusian opposition, in a round
of crisis diplomacy.
A former Ford Motor lobbyist
and veteran GOP aide on Capitol
Hill, Biegun has won praise from
Democrats and Republicans for
staking out a hawkish position
toward the Kremlin in the role.
On a Sept. 11 call with reporters,
Biegun criticized the Russian gov-
ernment for its failure to launch a
thorough investigation into what
he said was the use of a banned
nerve agent on its own territory
against a Russian citizen.
“It is unbelievable to us that this
would happen on the territory of
any country and the government
would not react with the appropri-
ate urgency to investigate and
hold accountable those who com-
mitted the crime,” Biegun said.
The Russian government has
rejected allegations of Kremlin in-
volvement in the poisoning.
In Belarus, thousands of dem-
onstrators took to the streets for
the sixth week in a row last week-
end to protest an Aug. 9 presiden-
tial election they believed was
rigged by President Alexander Lu-
kashenko, the former Soviet col-
lective farm boss who has ruled
the nation for 26 years. The pro-
testers argue that Svetlana Tikha-
novskaya, the wife of a jailed oppo-
sition figure, prevailed in the
flawed election and should be-
come the nation’s next president.
In Europe, Biegun met with
Tikhanovskaya, who fled to neigh-
boring Lithuania in the wake of
the election amid pressure from
Belarusian authorities. Biegun
has committed to new sanctions
on Belarusian officials in response
to the human rights abuses
against demonstrators but has
said the leader of the nation is for
the Belarusian people to decide.
“The Belarusian people are en-
titled to a free and fair election in
which they choose their own lead-
ers, and they were denied that
opportunity on August 9th. There
is no legitimacy delivered to the
ruler of Belarus by the August 9th
election,” Biegun said in the call
last week. He has urged authori-
ties in Belarus to negotiate with
the opposition and hold a new
election under independent ob-
Behind the scenes, Biegun and
other senior State Department of-
ficials have pushed European al-
lies to uniformly condemn the at-
tack on Navalny and Lukashenko’s
Earlier this month, NATO’s
principal decision-making body
condemned Navalny’s poisoning
in the “strongest possible terms”
given the use of a “nerve agent
from the banned Novichok g roup.”
Some nations in the 30-mem-
ber alliance opposed issuing a
statement, and some sought softer
language, including France, but
the United States pushed mem-
bers to approve the tougher word-
ing, according to diplomats famil-
iar with the internal deliberations.
U.S. officials have also held a
tough line with Moscow at the
Organization for Security and Co-
operation in Europe, a multilater-
al organization in which Russia is
a member, diplomats said.
“Biegun is a godsend,” said a
European diplomat, who spoke on
the condition of anonymity to dis-
cuss diplomatic conversations.
“While you’d normally hope to see
a firm public stance from a U.S.
president, no one’s under any illu-
sion that Trump would be that
messenger, so we’re content with
But Biegun’s diplomacy has
been overshadowed by the mixed
messages and relative silence
Trump has said little about the
protests in Belarus, noting that he
“likes seeing democracy” and that
“it doesn’t seem like it’s too much
democracy there,” and separately
describing the situation as “terri-
Two days after Merkel present-
ed what she called “unequivocal
proof” that Navalny was poisoned
with a chemical similar to the
Soviet-era nerve agent Novachok,
possibly implicating the Russian
government, Trump said he didn’t
know what happened to the Rus-
sian opposition figure.
“I don’t know exactly what hap-
pened,” Trump said on Sept. 4. “I
think it’s — it’s tragic. It’s terrible.
It shouldn’t happen. We haven’t
had any proof yet, but I will take a
Some 26 days since the poison-
ing, the United States has yet to
issue any formal government as-
sessment, and Trump hasn’t
brought up the matter with Putin,
according to the records of his
calls that are publicly available.
On Tuesday, Navalny posted a p ho-
to of himself in a German hospital
and said he was able to breathe on
his own after weeks on a ventila-
“Biegun made the stops I would
have made. He saw the people I
would have seen. He hit all the
marks,” said Daniel Fried, a former
top U.S. diplomat who is now a
fellow at the Atlantic Council.
“The question is, if you are listen-
ing to him and you are a European
diplomat.... Does this guy speak
for the administration or does he
speak for that part of the adminis-
tration that is other than Donald
Critics say Trump has offered
confusing statements about U.S.
priorities after Navalny’s poison-
ing, pointing to his reluctance to
condemn the incident as a chemi-
cal weapon poisoning possibly in-
volving the Russian state. Trump
told reporters Sept. 4 at the White
House that “we’re right now nego-
tiating a nuclear nonproliferation
treaty, which is very important.”
“It’s a very important thing,”
Trump said of the talks. “To me, it’s
the most important thing.” He
asked reporters why they weren’t
questioning him more about Chi-
B iegun later clarified that the
United States can pursue nuclear
negotiations with Russia aimed at
extending and expanding the New
START accord and manage issues
related to Belarus and Navalny at
the same time.
Andrew S. Weiss, vice president
for studies at the Carnegie Endow-
ment for International Peace and
a former top Russia official in the
Clinton administration, said an
administration has a Russia policy
only insofar as the president sup-
“There’s no Russia policy be-
yond that which [Trump] is will-
ing to put his name on,” Weiss said.
“In theory, the U.S. should be shap-
ing the West’s policy toward Rus-
sia. What we have seen, as we get
closer to the election, is there is no
effective U.S. policy toward Rus-
sia, let alone the ability to rally
others behind us.”
Anne Gearan contributed to this
On Russia crises, Trump and aides strike di≠erent tones
Nord Stream 2 pipeline materials in Sassnitz, Germany. President
Trump briefly criticized Germany for proceeding with the pipeline
with Russia when asked about the poisoning of Alexei Navalny.
President has yet
to affirm Belarus unrest,
poisoning of Putin critic
515 Lake Street South, Kirkland, Washington
Steve@svr-ranch.com | Renee@svr-ranch.com
WHERE ARE THE GOVERNORS?
America has 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the infections and 25% of the deaths
- Th e president has said “I’m not responsible”.
- the federal “leadership” is AWOL.
Senate republicans take a perp walk every day past reporters refusing to answer why they are doing nothing about the accelerating pandemic;
congressional democrats are holed up in their basements wagging their fi ngers impotently at the president and the obstructive republicans
tweeting “I’m deeply concerned”, “I’m disturbed”. Th e acting postmaster general has said that he will not turn the high speed sorters that do
in 1 hour the equivalent work of 8 workers working 30 hours back on eff ectively sabotaging the election. Congressional democrats are doing
nothing about it. Senator Schumer never used the “tools we have” even to deny a quorum to prevent the Kavanagh nomination and has never
used them since. Republicans count on democrats to play nice so they won’t have to do. At the height of the national emergency - they have all
abandoned their posts and gone AWOL. Th ere’s only one line of defense left. So...
- Where are the governors?
All of the epidemiologists have said that the only way that you defeat the pandemic is that you have to bring the infection rate curve all of the
way down to baseline just as they did in the EU nations and you have to have rapid testing and contact tracing to contain outbreaks.
- Why have the governors not publicly committed to this policy? Have they capitulated on behalf of their millions of constituents? Where is the
right to surrender without a fi ght written in any of their constitutions.
- Where are the governors?
- Under prompting from the president, states began opening up prematurely in some cases, before they had even met CDC guidelines
- As the positivity rate accelerates (up to 21% in Mississippi), the number of infections have increased exponentially
- the death rate has increased
- hospitals throughout the country being pushed past capacity.
- as there is no testing, the trust that those of us working in an essential business need to believe that you’re working in a safe environment is lost
- THERE IS A DESPERATE NEED FOR LEADERSHIP.
- On 7/14/20 the director of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom said “The biggest crisis in the world right now is the
lack of leadership”.
- There is a leadership vacuum in the United States right now.
- Where are the governors?
- we need a much larger presence, we need a national broadcast that offsets by its credibility the often dangerous misinformation coming from
the Trump administration.
- GOVERNORS NEED TO STEP INTO THE POWER VACUUM AND: TAKE CHARGE. These are the United STATES. Wa s it not the
representatives of the individual states that decided to reject monarchy and form the United States.
Americans see we’re going in the wrong direction
- In the premature opening up of schools.
- In the premature opening up of businesses.
- In the failure to provide adequate PPE to our fi rst responders.
- In the failure to provide point of contact testing to essential businesses, hospitals and nursing homes.
- In the failure to provide adequate testing and contact tracing for local outbreaks.
- Where are the governors?
We clearly should be going the opposite direction
- The epidemiologists say that if the high positivity states in the nation exercise the discipline to close down to 8 to 11 weeks they can bring down
the curve and get to where Germany and EU nations are today which is the only condition under which opening up is feasible.
- Governors need to do a daily hearing on National Networks with Dr. Fauci or an epidemiologist Dr. Fauci deputizes.
- Governors need to exercise the purchasing power of their states to constrain the pharmaceutical companies to provide the PPE and testing
kits including point of contact testing kits and sanitation protection to all essential businesses in the United States including nursing homes. 4
states have banded together to purchase testing equipment; but not my state. Its 40th in testing.
- Governors should go to courts and demand on an urgency basis mandamus for the production of PPE AND testing and tracing and fi le
injunctions against the Trump administration’s interference with the discharge of the charter of the CDC and FEMA. These actions by the
Tr ump administration have put the very people -the front line doctors and nurses in a hospital -that we depend on to save our lives at risk.
- Where are the governors?
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