RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – September 17, 2020

Today in Russia: Lukashenko says he asked Putin for weapons, Kremlin says it wasn’t discussed; Navalny likely poisoned from a bottle of water in his hotel room, not tea in airport as initially thought; Another international body will study Navalny lab results; European Parliament passes Navalny resolution calling for sanctions; President Lukashenko? Not acccording to European Parliament; Germany’s pre-Navalny offer to US on NordStream 2; Poland wants to arrest Russian air traffic controllers over 2010 disaster – Kremlin “negatively assesses” this plan

Alexander Lukashenko said he asked his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin for weaponry, but the Kremlin said the two men discussed no such thing.

Alexei Navalny was likely poisoned by a bottle of water in his hotel room, according to independent outlet Proekt [in Russian] and Navanly’s team [in Russian]. Navalny’s family recovered the courtesy hotel water bottles after his poisoning, and “German military medics reportedly found traces of Novichok on the neck of a water bottle that Navalny’s family turned over to his doctors in Berlin.”

The Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said it would also take part in an analysis of Navalny’s lab results, at the request of Berlin. A statement from OPCW read, “A team of experts from the (OPCW’s) Technical Secretariat independently collected biomedical samples from Mr. Navalny for analysis by OPCW designated laboratories…Results of this analysis are forthcoming and will be shared with the German authorities.”

The European Parliament passed a resolution calling for sanctions on Russia for Navalny’s poisoning. Although the resolution is non-binding, it was passed with 532 in favor, 84 against, and 72 abstaining – a sign of the extent to which elite and public opinion has shifted against Russia on the continent since Navalny’s posioning. The European Parliament also called for a thorough investigation into the incident by the EU, United Nations, Council of Europe, and other bodies.

Josep Borrel, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs declared that Alexander Lukashenko was not the legitimate president of Belarus. The European Parliament has also adopted a resolution calling for sanctions against Belarus and not recognizing Lukashenko.

The Financial Times reported yesterday that “Germany offered to spend up to €1bn to subsidise the construction of two liquid natural gas terminals capable of receiving US gas exports in exchange for Washington dropping its opposition to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.” The offer was made in a proposal last month by German finance minister Olaf Scholz in a letter to US Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin. The proposal shows the great lengths that Germany was willing to go to appease the US and halt further sanctions against the project and European contractors working on it. Since Navalny’s poisoning, the mood in Germany and across the EU has hardened against the project, but Russia’s permanent representative to the EU Vladimir Chizov insisted yesterday that the project would survive sanctions and new post-Navalny pressure on the project.

Poland has taken the first steps to arrest three Russian air traffic controllers whom it accuses of provoking a fatal plane crash that killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski in 2010, Polish media reported late Wednesday.  Polish prosecutors in 2017 accused the air traffic controllers of “deliberately provoking” the crash where 96 Polish officials including Kaczynski died at Russia’s Smolensk airport,” Moscow Times wrote. The Kremlin does not view this proposal favorably. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov elaborated [in Russian],

I don’t know if there were any contacts, or any legal actions in accordance with international practice, whether our Prosecutor General’s Office or investigative bodies received appeals from Warsaw. We do not know about this yet. In general, conceptually, answering the second part of your question, I will say this: we treat negatively.’

PHOTO: The European Parliament in 2019. The body has passed resolutions calling for sanctions on both Russia for the Navalny poisoning and against Belarus while declaring its strongman Alexander Lukashenko an illegitimate president (European Union 2019 – EP).