Intervention of the Permanent representative of the Russian Federation to the OPCW H.E. Ambassador Alexander Shulgin

Intervention of the Permanent representative of the Russian Federation to the OPCW H.E. Ambassador Alexander Shulgin

“The Navalny Case: Setting the Record Straight”


Good morning, ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for being with us. We convened this online conference which is official side event of the forthcoming Conference of state-parties to discuss the so-called Navalny case especially from the prospect of what’s going on the OPCW venue.

Indeed there are lots of things to get straightened, a wealth of misunderstanding to eliminate.

Let me say just a few words about how it all started on August 20, 2020. This day Alexey Navalny felt unwell onboard the flight Tomsk – Moscow. Pilots did not waste their time. The plane made emergency landing in Omsk. In the airport there was already an ambulance. He was given first aid and transported to the hospital for treatment. Upon the request of Alexey Navalny’s next-to-kin President Putin personally stepped in to allow Navalny’s speediest sanitary evacuation. Navalny was taken abroad despite being on recognizance not to leave due to his known troubles with the justice of his country.

Therefore there should be no doubt whatsoever about the good will of the Russian authorities in terms of providing Mr.Navalny with the best possible care. On top of that Russian medical crew handed over to German colleagues necessary documents about how they rescued the patient and stabilized his condition with the purpose of air-borne transportation.

However the ensuing reaction of Western capitals turned out to be tough and vehement. No sooner than Navalny was taken in Charity hospital than traces of some kind of Cholinesterase inhibitor have been discovered in his bio samples. Two days on, German medics made an important adjustment. They concluded about Mr. Navalny’s exposure to a military grade nervous agent belonging to the family of the so-called ‘Novichky’. Just to reiterate, this result was achieved in a few days only. Why they got it so quickly is understandable. Indeed, in contravention to the Chemical Weapons Convention many Western countries had been carrying studies from 2000 to 2020 regarding such kind of chemicals. And this became quite obvious in 2018-2019. Hence, Russia insisted upon samples and formulas of these substances being included in control list under the Convention.

Statements made the Germans about “Novichok” marked actually the starting point of the anti-Russian campaign. To spare your time I will not dwell on how things have been unfolding with the French and Swedish involvement, and finally the notorious confirmation by the Technical Secretariat of the presence of nervous agent in the analysis of Mr. Navalny. To refresh your memory I will quote this conclusion: “Biomarkers of the Cholinesterase inhibitor have been discovered, presenting characteristics similar to the toxic agents from the lists 1A14 and 1A15. But this chemical is not part of the OPCW Annex on toxic agents”.

From this moment onwards, there hardly has been any session of policy making OPCW organs without the US, the UK, and the others making noisy statements, insisting upon the necessity for Russia to fully cooperate with the OPCW with the aim of disclosing in a credible way what happened to
Mr. Navalny on the Russian territory.

In conformity with their choice of stoking tensions about this issue, the US and their allies attempted to raise stakes even higher. Indeed the UK embassy acting on behalf of 45 ‘concerned countries’ initiated on October 5, 2021 a diplomatic demarche based on Article IX, para 2 of the CWC. Basically, they urged the Russian Federation to provide them with the answers on the questions in relation to what has been made by the Russian authorities to investigate the so-called poisoning of Mr.Navalny on the Russian territory. They also called upon us to explain why we did not accept the so-called standard procedures offered by the Technical Secretariat to provide us with the technical assistance which we requested under the Article VIII, para 38 (E).

No later than two days after this request, on October 7, we initiated our own demarche. We turned over to the Technical Secretariat our note with the two annexes, both to respond the interrogations of 45 countries and to ask the UK, France, Germany, and Sweden the same questions we have been asking them before, to no avail so far, and some additional questions. This can be found in open sources. Among other things we asked why the Technical assistance mission, rather formal than really needed, had been thoroughly concealed from the Russian Federation, why the formula of the toxic agent allegedly found in bio samples of Mr.Navalny was kept hidden from us, what was the role of newl British citizen Maria Pevchik, how did it come that on the bottle of mineral water purchased by Ms.Pevchik in sterile zone of Tolmachevo airport German specialists discovered traces of the toxic agent similar to the one detected in urine and blood of Mr.Navalny.

From Annex 1 it became perfectly clear what specifically Russian authorities had undertaken to follow up on what happened. In the course of the preliminary inquiry, needed under the Russian legislation to find out evidence of crime, the police interviewed as many as 230 persons including people who had contacted Mr. Navalny, attended his events during the trip to Siberia, passengers onboard the plane when he had a stroke. More than 100 items had been taken in police custody, including the samples necessary to carry out procedures for comparison. Police officers had watched long hours of records on CCTV cameras. No less than 20 various forensic studies had been performed. Whereas as many as 64 bio chemicals tests had been performed. Our specialists did not find any trace of organophosphorous substance. The probable diagnosis established by medical staff in Omsk was the one of the carbohydrate metabolism disturbance against the background of the possible chronic diabetes which caused blood sugar to drop down. Up until now police investigators  have not gotten any information about the foul play by third persons which would enable the police to conclude in favor of a full-fledged criminal case.

However in order to get all information available and clarify the situation in the light of statements made by German, French, Swedish toxicologists, and also the Technical Secretariat pointing out to toxicants form the ‘Novichky’ family, Russian law enforcement agencies asked for legal assistance from their Western colleagues. Hence, the Russian Prosecutor General’s office forwarded as many as 8 requests for legal assistance to German authorities. Similar requests have been conveyed to appropriate authorities of France and Sweden. Using diplomatic channels we also asked Germany to provide us with answers under Article 9, para 2 of the CWC. None of them has been properly answered.

This explains why we had to reiterate the same questions as before to the German, French, Swedish representatives, under Article IX, para 2 of the CWC. Like I said we added some new questions and we also asked the Technical Secretariat. We were absolutely disappointed by the responses received on October 18, 2021. Quite formal responses or lack thereof. 

Frankly speaking, for us it did not come as surprise. We are not the only ones German federal government is not willing to talk to. German authorities appeared to be quite evasive and non-committal as regards their own parliament -  Bundestag. I am tempted to recommend you all to look into the transcript of questions asked by German deputies and responses provided by the federal government. Please, look into it, and judge by yourself, the extent of openness to which German government stands ready to speak with the German deputies. I suggest you pay special attention to the questions listed as No 16, 38, 57, and 61. And especially the question about the bottles of mineral water ostensibly taken from the hotel room of Mr.Navaly in Tomsk.

Speaking of the bottles, I need to be a little bit specific. There was a video footage where Navalny supporters can be seen in the hotel room collecting various items, taking bottles and packaging them. They are seen without any protective gear other than latex gloves. Likewise, people who accompanied Mr.Navalny onboard sanitary plane to Berlin were not protected. None of them, be it Navalny supporters, Ms.Pevchik or people who were in contact with Navalny onboard the plane, has been reported as contaminated.

Highly suspicious was behavior of one of Navalny’s colleagues – Ms. Pevchik who became quite recently British subject and who is rumored to have links to British special services. She was believed to be the one who transported the notorious bottles all the way to Berlin. However, as she went through pre-flight control no bottle whatsoever has been detected in her luggage on screening. Just minutes later Ms. Pevchik popped up on CCTV footage purchasing a bottle of water from vending machine in the airport’s sterile zone. We can’t but ask the question: may this be the very bottle where German experts are said to detect traces of the toxicant similar to the one found in Mr. Navalny’s analysis? What happened to this bottle? This seems to be an uneasy question for German officials. They are not answering to their own deputies, let alone Russian police investigators. At most they admit somewhat reluctantly that the bottle taken out of the Navalny’s room should not be considered as a key element as it was not studied by the OPCW laboratory. We certainly disagree. This is just the other way round. Bottles of water appeared to be major evidence which is likely to shed light on the dark sides of this eminently weird story.

We are seriously preoccupied with the role played by the OPCW Technical Secretariat in this affair. Not only did the TS hide the fact of providing Germans with technical assistance even before Germans themselves made an official request, but also it tried actually to mislead us regarding its whole interaction with Germany. Honestly, it looks like what could be called a mutual assistance pact between Germany and the Technical Secretariat. Indeed we ask questions to the Technical Secretariat, for instance, about the formula of this mysterious substance  believed to be the poison, they just say: the owner of the technical assistance visit report is Germany. Therefore you need to handle this on bilateral Russian-Germany basis.

Next we turned to Germany only to be told: this is by no means bilateral issue. And they sent us back to The Hague to the Technical Secretariat.

During the 97th EC session (July this year) it was Germans who volunteered to explain on behalf of the Technical Secretariat why the official report compiled by the Technical Secretariat about the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention in 2020 pointed to August 20 as the date the Technical Secretariat deployed in Germany its assistance team. By the way, let me emphasize: this was quite official document. Not a blue print, like some journalists may have thought.

From this indication about August 20 it may have been logically inferred that the OPCW experts arrived in Germany simultaneously or even before Mr. Navalny had seizure onboard the plane that had taken him from Tomsk to Moscow.

Needless to say that this fact made us even more suspicious about the foul play. Surprisingly but the Technical Secretariat did not say so much as single word about this case. Whereas Germans speaking on behalf of the Technical Secretariat insisted heavily on technical error which is hardly comprehensible given that this kind of documents written by the whole team of authors, is checked and cross-checked by many people before its release. Graciously taken out of trouble by Germans the Technical Secretariat appears to reciprocate dismissing our requests to be given photos and videos related to the samples being taken in Charite hospital and then splitted prior to the transfer towards the certified laboratories. We are perfectly entitled to make this request. Indeed as a member state committed to the integrity of the Chemical Weapons Convention we need to know whether the Chain of custody which is a sacrosant principle of the OPCW operational activities has been respected or not. Significantly, we are denied up until now the access to such documentation.

It is high time to cross the T’s and dot the I’s as regards the failed technical assistance visit by the TS to the Russian Federation. We have already repeatedly explained what happened. We have to do this again because our opponents either would not listen to us or they would distort our position. The US-lead Euro-Atlantic allies continued to blame Russia on the pretext that we did not accept the so-called ‘standard procedures’ offered by the Technical Secretariat for the purpose of the technical assistance visit.

Let me just tell you that Technical Secretariat itself has up until now proved to be unable to clearly explain what these ‘standard procedures’ are about. Again there are some Western countries first of all, the UK and Germany, that pretended to draw up rules for these technical assistance visits. They forbid us even to think about carrying out studies jointly – Russian and Technical Secretariat – of what is left of bio samples taken from Mr.Navalny back in Omsk. They claim the necessity of ‘independent action’ by the Technical Secretariat meaning the TS experts working in the quite of their laboratories with nobody surveilling what they are doing. Let’s make it straight. By normal conditions we could have easily accepted such argument. But unfortunately this is not the case anymore. It would not be exaggerated to point to lesser credibility of the TS as compared to what we observed, say, five years ago.

For such deplorable state of affairs the Technical Secretariat has to blame nobody but itself. Just think about the huge scandal that broke out over the notorious Douma report by the Fact Finding Team. We all know well the outcome of ‘highly professional’ and independent efforts by the Technical Secretariat. They hired three so-called independent experts, purportedly experts in ballistics, only to get the conclusion satisfactory for the US, the UK, and France, that is about the chlorine cylinders dropped from air and not brought in manually, like is was most certainly the case. In doing this the Technical Secretariat dismissed the initial report, actually got it re-written, in order to remove any suspicion about the US, the UK, and France carrying out unprovoked attack in April 2018 on the Syrian Arab Republic. The Technical Secretariat continued to stick to this conclusion despite severe criticism by prominent scholars, public figures, reputable experts, including the very first OPCW Director-General Mr. Bustany.  All these people claimed that the so-called ‘independent’ assessments as reflected in the final Douma report are far-fetched if not falsified.

Bearing all of this in mind we can hardly admit that the independent study of Navalny’s bio samples may have been performed rigorously and objectively. We also suggested that the joint study – Russia – Technical Secretariat –  of remaining samples be implemented using the same equipment, technology, and methodology that have been utilized in the OPCW certified laboratories. It was absolutely fair to make such proposal since our Western opponents tried to cast doubt over the reliability of the equipment used by the Omsk medical crew: not accurate, outdated and obsolete. Again, we’ve been told this is something that is in contradiction with the previous practice. There had never been such a precedent. This position, as presented by the Technical Secretariat, looks like questionable. It does not dovetail at all with quite bulimic excitement of the Technical Secretariat to bring the attribution in The Hague, to provide the Technical Secretariat with new quasi prosecutorial functions. Even our American colleagues did not expect the Technical Secretariat moving so fast. The Americans mulled over long-distance marathon and it turned out to be a frenzied sprint, zealous execution of what had been decided in a very sketchy way.

To sum up, Technical Secretariat multiplying obstacles, in fact made it impossible for our request to be duly taken into account. In light of what I’ve explained at some point in time this demand ceased to be relevant.

As a result of numerous facts of our Western partners’ blunt refusal to cooperate, to respond to our request, stubborn rejection of all our comments and clarifications alongside the biased position of the Technical Secretariat, we are unable to establish what is of the primarily importance for us, that is when, where, and under which circumstances traces of the military grade agent have been discovered outside the Russian Federation in the analysis of Mr.Navalny.

By the way, in case if they really discover the substances which is not part of control lists, why nobody is willing to propose that this substance be added to the lists of chemicals, as it was done in 2019?

No explanation for such stalemate other than the Western countries above mentioned not willing to share with us critically important information, and also Technical Secretariat’s reluctance to cooperate. Actually such behavior does not surprise us. In the past we have already reckoned that what is related to the Navalny’s health condition seems to be a side issue for our colleagues. Their preference goes rather for geopolitical ambitions.

Nowadays there is no doubt left about this. I let you judge by yourself. During the 98th EC session we asked the floor so as to respond to the demarche of 45 concerned countries, made just 48 hours before. However colleagues from the US, the UK went to all lengths, lest Russian Ambassador be granted the floor. They tried everything: procedural aspects, absence of the Bulgarian Ambassador waste of precious time, all kind of pretexts to prevent me from addressing to the Executive Council. Turning to the American and British colleagues, I said: ‘Look, Comrades, are you still part of the concerned countries group?’ Since they did not seem to belie their belonging to the group, I tried to pressure them into answering the question: if you are really worried why are you refusing the Russian representative to speak out in relation with your own demarche? They simply shrugged, still imperturbable, condescending just to give me a piece of advice: throw your documents… I tensed: What? Throw away? Throw into trash bin? No, in a mailbox! Actually we do know all too well how our colleagues tend to interpret documents sent by mail. Our foreign Minister used to exchange letters with his colleagues form Germany and France over the Normandy format. Then came a moment when exasperated by misinterpretations and distortion, of our MFA had to release the correspondence in its entirety which is now available on the Russian MFA official website. Please look into it, and you will certainly be able to distinguish between those who are right and who are not accurate with the facts, to put it mildly.

Given all that I have said earlier, you may realize why we have this ever growing certainty that this is all about Western countries’ maneuver in The Hague in order to cover up larger-scale provocation set up by foreign special services with the help of extremist elements within the Russian marginal opposition. The choice of time was far from being random. It took place on the eve of major events in the domestic agenda of the Russian Federation.

The US and their allies undoubtedly are willing to instrumentalize this Navalny case to use it as a pretext for slapping new sanctions on Russia. Significantly the US has introduced the first set of economic and personal sanctions just a couple of days after what happened in Siberia. They are striving to get Russia pushed on the margins of the OPCW leveling false accusations against us about allegedly hidden chemical arsenals and ongoing research and development prohibited under the Convention.

My American colleague used in one of his speeches here in The Hague this expression: ‘World turned upside down’. Very well said. Indeed this is the world turned upside down as those who still detain the chemical weapons blame those who are totally free from military chemistry!

Let me emphasize again. Our country has completed ahead of the planned deadline the destruction of its chemical arsenal which has been certified by the OPCW. Russia is in full compliance with the CWC. Actually we are Custodians of the Convention. We are trying to protect it from assaults launched by the countries that are struggling to replace international law by the rules of their own. Today the only country that has not finished elimination of chemical weapons despite plenty of financial and technical resources is precisely the US.

We can only guess what course the events will take on The Hague venue in relation to the Navalny case. I will simply say. Make no mistake. Every attempt to damage our countries’ interests will be duly rebuffed. For our part we will continue to do our best to get responses to our interrogations for the truth to finally emerge in this shadowy story.