In the case of Alexei Navalny, the German government spoke clear words to Moscow this week. However, parts of the left and the AfD see the Navalny case quite differently – and juggle with questionable hypotheses.
This week, Bundeswehr experts have provided unequivocal evidence that Kremlin critic Alexej Navalny had been poisoned. While the federal government is now imposing “very serious questions” that only the Russian government can answer, sections of the left and the AfD are delving into wild theories. They consider Vladimir Putin’s power apparatus to be questionable to say the least.
For example, Gregor Gysi, the former left-wing party leader of the Bundestag, made sure people sat up on Friday. In the MDR, the 72-year-old warned of bias against the Russian president. What interest should Putin have in ordering something like that? He knows it will deteriorate relations with the West. He has enough penalties on his neck. Putin would have been particularly stupid if he had to order that, and so I don’t believe it. “
Instead, Gysi speculated about agents who might have gone insane, or talked about troops trying to torpedo the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project. ‘It may also be an opponent of the natural gas pipeline to Germany. Or an opponent in command who knew: if you stage such a murder, which is then blamed on the government, it will deteriorate relations. And you see: it really works. Gysi said that instead of threatening sanctions now, the Russian government should first be given the opportunity to open an investigation.
Prominent left received support from fellow party member Sevim Dagdelen. At an election rally in Bochum, the Bundestag member speculated that the real purpose of the poison attack on Navalny was to destroy German-Russian economic relations, the blogger portal “Ruhrbarone” reported. The federal government therefore called on Dagdelen to withhold and support the Russian judiciary in their investigation.
Other left-wing politicians were more cautious. The parliamentary group wanted to make a German reaction to the poisoning of Navalny dependent on the behavior of Russia. “It is now on the Russian side to track down those responsible for this terrible act and bring them to justice,” said Member of Parliament Stefan Liebich in Potsdam on Thursday. Talking about the consequences now is moving too quickly.
Parallels with the Skripal case
Navalny fell into a coma with severe pain on a domestic flight in Russia more than two weeks ago. First he was treated in a hospital in Siberia. After international pressure and at the insistence of his family, he was then transferred to the Berlin University Hospital Charité, where poisoning with the nerve agent Novitschok was diagnosed.
Navalny, 44, is a fierce critic of the Kremlin chief and has uncovered numerous cases of corruption among the Russian power elite with his team. His poisoning brings back memories of the attack on former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in March 2018 in Salisbury, England. British investigations then found forensic evidence of Russian intelligence involvement. In previous years there have been other instances where politicians and journalists who have been critical of Putin were poisoned.
Close links with networks close to the Kremlin
That the Russian leadership had a hand in the current case is denied not only by well-known left-wing politicians, but also by representatives of the AfD. “Whether the allegations against the Kremlin are plausible is at the very least questionable,” said Maximilian Krah MEP.
Berlin’s House of Representatives, Gunnar Lindemann, went so far as to poison Navalny “to find a reason to justify further sanctions against Russia”, as he wrote on Facebook. Navalny is therefore an American front man, paid for by the Soros Foundation and the “Clinton-Obama Clan”.
It is not unexpected that parts of the left, such as the AfD, are now taking sides with Putin. In the past, there have been repeated indications of closer ties between representatives of both parties and the Russian state. AfD politicians, for example, visited the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, which was annexed several times in violation of international law, including Lindemann. Representatives from the left also showed up there. t-reported online about links between politicians of both parties and networks close to the Kremlin like About the dubious Russian contacts of AfD member of the Bundestag Markus Frohnmaier.
Trump: “Let’s see”
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump reacted cautiously to the German findings in the Navalny case. Washington has yet to see any evidence of the opposition’s poisoning, but has no doubts about Germany’s findings, Trump said at a news conference. ‘I don’t know exactly what happened. It’s tragic, it’s terrible, we haven’t seen any evidence, but we’ll look at it. ‘
Trump was reluctant to criticize Moscow and instead stressed that he had a good relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia has denied involvement in the Navalny poisoning. The country’s leadership repeatedly emphasized that its own laboratories could not detect any poisoning. There is no ground to charge the Russian state in this matter, a Kremlin spokesman said.
The Navalny case also sparked a debate about possible sanctions against Russia. The focus is particularly on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project in the Baltic Sea. There was a requirement to stop or at least suspend the project. Opinions on this differ in German politics.