Revolutions Need Martyrs: Putin Appears To Have Moved on Navalny

When I posted about the Russian protests ahead of the upcoming elections yesterday, I noted that Alexsei Navalny had been taken into custody the day before the protests. This is not uncommon. Putin has Navalny picked up and arrested several times a year, protests or no protests. Basically using state based and directed lawfare to harass Navalny and send a message to the opposition. Navalny stays in jail anywhere from a few days to several months, is released, and the cycle starts all over again. Until today.

From The New York Times (emphasis mine):

LONDON — A day after an unauthorized election protest he planned drew mass arrests in Moscow, Aleksei A. Navalny, Russia’s most prominent opposition leader, was hospitalized with a “severe allergic reaction” in jail, his spokeswoman said on Sunday.

“Over his whole life, Aleksei has never experienced an allergic reaction,” the spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, wrote on Twitter. But she said that his face was severely swollen and he had red spots on his skin.

Mr. Navalny was arrested on Wednesday and sentenced to 30 days in jail for calling a rally on Saturday, to protest a decision by the election authorities to bar several opposition candidates from running for Moscow’s City Council.

Ms. Yarmysh wrote that employees at the special detention center in Russia where Mr. Navalny was being held had called an ambulance, and that he had been taken to a hospital where police officers were guarding his room.

Though the reason for his hospitalization was unclear, Mr. Navalny is no stranger to having his health imperiled because of his activism.

He has been roughed up by Russian law enforcement officers and arrested many times. In May 2017, an assailant threw a green chemical into his face, resulting in an 80 percent loss of his sight in one eye, he said. His vision may improve, but the outlook was unclear, Mr. Navalny wrote on his website that year, citing a doctor’s diagnosis.

On Sunday evening, Mr. Navalny’s regular physician, Anastasy Vasilyeva, visited him in the hospital with another doctor, Yaroslav Ashikhmin, and said she saw similarities to that incident.

“As the doctor who treated Aleksei’s severe eye burn two years ago, I can say with confidence that both today and in 2017 what happened was a result of the damage inflicted by an undetermined chemical substance,” Ms. Vasilyeva wrote on Facebook.

“Aleksei doesn’t have any allergy and has never had one. Moreover, he ate the same food with his cellmates and didn’t use any new perfumes or personal care products,” she said, adding that while in the hospital, Mr. Navalny can only eat the food that is allowed in prison.

Ms. Vasilyeva also wrote that her access to Mr. Navalny was limited.

“Almost immediately we were told to leave,” she wrote. Following deliberations with the hospital’s head doctor, Ms. Vasilyeva said that she and Mr. Ashikhmin were able to examine Mr. Navalny “through a door.”

The question is whether Putin is so brazen, or so desperate, as to have Navalny killed or so severely disabled in detention that he is as good as dead? Putin may be a brutal tactician more than a gifted strategist, but he’s not stupid. Alive and functional, even if imprisoned, Navalny is a pain and a problem. Dead or injured so he is good as dead and he’s a martyr. And revolutions and rebellions need their martyrs.

Open thread!

35 replies
  1. 1
    debbie says:

    The BBC just now implied poisoning was involved.

  2. 2
    West of the Rockies says:

    Putin is a coward, a weasel, a dead-faced bully/dullard. I hope his life ends badly. The sooner, the better.

  3. 3
    debbie says:

    @West of the Rockies:

    And flabby too.

  4. 4
    matryoshka says:

    Are brazen and desperate mutually exclusive?

    Speaking of martyrs, another mass shooting in California.

  5. 5
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @matryoshka: Yep, just getting caught up and saw that.

  6. 6
    West of the Rockies says:


    And short, with a fudge-pudge belly.

  7. 7

    We were speculating last night about whether Putin’s tactics are changing. The violence and arrests yesterday were stepped up from what had been done previously. As you say, Adam, arresting Navalny is part of the standard operating procedure. Poisoning him is another step up.

    Putin’s greatest fear seems to be of a replay of the dissolution of the Soviet Union throughout Russia. The protests in Moscow are the most obvious to him, but, as I noted last night, there are protests going on in other places in Russia.

    Because of the structure of the Soviet Union, it was relatively easy for the republics to break apart and become separate nations. The various separatist movements in various governmental units across Russia do not have that structure. For that reason alone, an equivalent breakup is unlikely. Or would be very ugly, like the Russian civil war of the early 20th century.

    Putin has a real problem: how to put down the demonstrations without provoking and solidifying them further. His intention with Navalny is probably to make him sick enough that he can’t lead. But, as you say, that could also make Navalny a martyr.

  8. 8
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: I don’t see a breakup or breakaways. I think Putin is more concerned about being overthrown and replaced. Either by popular uprising or by the oligarchs removing him to head off a popular uprising they might not be able to co-opt.

  9. 9
  10. 10
    rikyrah says:

    @Adam L Silverman:
    Are you going to write a post on the meaning of Coates’ leaving and his replacement?

  11. 11
    matryoshka says:

    Is Putin under more of a threat of removal now than he has been? Despite my nym, I’m not even a little bit Russian.

  12. 12
    Raoul says:

    We’re at the point where “things will have to get worse before they get better” is becoming painfully real.
    Putin poisoning opponents.
    Shooter(s) killing and maiming in Gillroy.
    DNI Coates leaving and an absolute clusterf*** of a man is his ‘replacement’.
    On and on, the grinding down goes.

    I won’t give in to despair, tho. I’ve made good progress on my plans to support MN and national candidates for 2020. I’m thinking I’m gonna go local … our State Senate is a GOP thorn in our side, and the whole chamber is up in 2020. We’ve gotta hog tie those sleazy bastards to Trump so he’s a rotting, ratshit smeared mascot they can’t de-stkink from no matter what.

    With that somehwhat childish taunt dispatched with, I wish everyone a good night. As good as possible considering the maelstrom.

  13. 13

    The thing that’s amazing to me is that Putin could receive the protesters demands/requests, negotiate and grant some of them, and blunt their actions that way. But that doesn’t occur to him because he wants full control. Slightly more open, but still rigged, elections aren’t that hard to pull off, and Putin’s done that before.

    On the model of the Tsar and the boyars, however, he must keep his oligarchs in line first and foremost. Not clear what they want, unless they and Putin are so insanely greedy that they want all the financial benefits they can squeeze out of the country.

    [And yes, pay attention. This is not exactly the same as what is happening in the US, but there are parallels.]

  14. 14
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @rikyrah: It means Coats has had enough and it means he’s being replaced by a guy with no national security experience at all, not that Coats had a whole lot prior to the job. The difference is that Coats spent about two decades in Congress between the House and the Senate and Ratcliffe is a full on MAGA partisan who was most the mayor of a town of 7,800 prior to getting elected to Congress. What you’ll want to look for is should Ratcliffe be confirmed, and I expect he will, what he does with the new election security section and director that Coats just stood up.

  15. 15
    jl says:

    @rikyrah: From analysis from non-Trumpsters I have heard, Coates refused to be an abject flunky. Despite his many wrong headed very conservative views, Coates apparently had some integrity and professionalism and competence, and told Trump to his face stuff he didn’t want to hear, blew off too many attempts by Trumpsters to interfere with intelligence community’s work. Despite Coates’ right wing views, no room for a non-flunky in the Trump administration.

    So, meaning is that Trump wants to assert control over the IC in run-up to election, and Coates wouldn’t let him.

    But I’d love to hear from Adam on whether he thinks Trumpsters latest sabotage will work or not.

  16. 16
    jl says:

    @Adam L Silverman: thanks Adam. I hope you can keep informed about the situation and keep us updated. Interested if you agree with the assessment of Coates I heard on news shows today, and relayed in my comment above.

  17. 17
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @jl: The short answer is I don’t know. I expect that even some of the Republican senators will have issues with the fact that he’s got no experience, but I doubt it’ll be enough to prevent his nomination from getting through. The real questions will be what DCI Haspel and FBI Director Wray do, as well as GEN Nakasone at NSA. The former two have been quietly doing what they need to do, along with Coats. I’ve not been following GEN Nakasone at NSA, but he’s competent.

  18. 18
    Brachiator says:

    @Adam L Silverman: One news headline describes Ratcliffe as a Trump loyalist. Ha!

    Has the administration commented on events in Russia or Hong Kong?

  19. 19
    trollhattan says:

    I await Mulvaney’s pronouncement that there are “Good people on both sides” and ask why “Racist Cummings isn’t protesting this monstrosity instead of denigrating our noble Patriots manning our overrun but totally well-managed borders?”

  20. 20
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @jl: My take is he’s been quietly competent and doing what he needs to be doing. Which is part of the reason he’s had enough and is moving on.

  21. 21
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Brachiator: I haven’t seen any comments on either.

  22. 22
    Adam L Silverman says:

    The University of Washington College Republicans seem like a nice, polite crowd.

  23. 23
    Adam L Silverman says:

    This is the concern:

    Mowatt-Larson’s bio:

    Rolf Mowatt-Larssen is a Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center, having served until July 2019 as Director of the Center’s Intelligence Project. Prior to that he was also a Senior Fellow.

    Before coming to the Belfer Center, Mowatt-Larssen served over three years as the Director of Intelligence and Counterintelligence at the U.S. Department of Energy. Prior to this, he served for 23 years as a CIA intelligence officer in various domestic and international posts, to include Chief of the Europe Division in the Directorate of Operations, Chief of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Department, Counterterrorist Center, and Deputy Associate Director of Central Intelligence for Military Support. Prior to his career in intelligence, Mr. Mowatt-Larssen served as an officer in the U.S. Army. He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy, West Point, NY. He is married to Roswitha and has three children. He is a recipient of the CIA Director’s Award, the George W. Bush Award for Excellence in Counterterrorism, the Secretary of Energy’s Exceptional Service Medal, the Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal, Secretary of Defense Civilian Distinguished Service Medal, and the National Intelligence Superior Performance Medal, among others.

  24. 24

    @Adam L Silverman: Confirmed? Are they even bothering with such quaint old-fashioned customs?

    Here’s another cute story:
    A U.S. judge will hear arguments on July 29 in President Donald Trump’s lawsuit seeking to block a House of Representatives committee from obtaining his New York state tax returns, according to a court filing issued Sunday.
    U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols in Washington scheduled the hearing so he could resolve an “emergency” lawsuit Trump’s personal lawyers filed last week against the Democrat-controlled House Ways and Means Committee.

    Reuters then wastes nine paragraphs before they get to the nut:

    Nichols, a Trump appointee, was confirmed by the Senate in May by a vote of 55-43

  25. 25
    jl says:

    @John Revolta: I’m very certain that the honor and dignity of state sovereignty will be respected by the court, from this one up to SCOTUS, as it has been so many times before (snark)

  26. 26
    ThresherK says:

    Countdown to Trump tweeting about how neat and convenient it would be to poison his enemies the way Putin’s enemies get it.

  27. 27
    Raoul says:

    @John Revolta: Which brings up a procedural question to the BJ-tariat: Can the Dems withhold unanimous consent for bring Ratliffe’s nomination to the floor.

    I know this will cause mass faintings in the press, but is it procedurally useful? At this point, I see no reason not to move to all-out obstruction. Mitch did it for years. We could try for 18 damned months.

    (Yes I didn’t go to bed after my earlier ditty. I need a snack first.)

  28. 28
    The Dangerman says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    Trump is consolidating his personal control over the intelligence community.

    If this Barney Fife is put in as DNI, and another 9/11 type event happens, Trump couldn’t be elected Dog Catcher. Of course, that assumes that elections would be held after another 9/11 type event.

  29. 29
    B.B.A. says:

    @The Dangerman: “Bush kept us safe” was all I heard in the ’00s, even though he didn’t.

  30. 30
    jl says:

    @B.B.A.: Sometimes the bigger the lie the better. Anyway, you pesky commenter, criticizing your erstwhile Commander in Chief (and I don’t like the critics), you’ve covered your ass now, and you can go back home (snark and historical reference that will be very prominent in the future history of our era, should we have one)

  31. 31
    Ruckus says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:
    Isn’t this the way what we call Russia has worked for a very long time? The rich and powerful have gotten their way by whatever means it took, which was mostly violence, a dose of “You will do as you are told and you will like it.” Goes right along with they pretend to pay us and we pretend to work. The current system may be a bit better but doesn’t seem to have changed all that much for most people.

  32. 32
    pattonbt says:

    When the next Democrat wins the presidency, the pendulum swing to massively curtail executive power is going to swift, severe and vicious – with scant opposition from any party, cheered on by the media, with no hindsight or reflection on how f’d up Trump and the Republicans were. Guaranteed the Republicans will howl with madness (without a sense of irony or shame) about overreach, states rights, congressional oversight, separation of powers, emoluments, nepotism, transparency, etc.

  33. 33
    Doug says:

    @Adam L Silverman: There’s this from the Embassy spokesperson in Moscow:

    Good to see that our working level is still working. (There may have been more; I saw that one via @McFaul on twitter.)

  34. 34
    Steeplejack (phone) says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    They could have their charter yanked for “Democratic Party.” Need to up their game.

  35. 35

    @Ruckus: (Dead thread, but this is a question worth answering.) To a rough approximation, you’re not wrong. But there are other strains in Russian history – the democratic republic of Novgorod, the Decembrists, the provisional government after the 1917 revolution, and various regional governments – right now Kazan is one.

    Another overarching theme that we can see is disorder and chaos, followed by reconstruction, followed by overreach, followed by disorder and chaos. Russia has many of the attributes of a superpower – land and resources, and now nuclear weapons – but the footing for them is weak – an underdeveloped economy and the top-down rule. That has been the case before.

    But it’s always important to look at the specifics if we want to know where things are likely to go now.

Comments are closed.