- Print This Post Print This Post

by John Helmer, Moscow 

When it comes to fabrications in warfare, it was the ancient Greeks who invented the Trojan Horse. They also invented ἀπὸ μηχανῆς θεός – he has come down to us from the Latin, deus ex machina, meaning the god out of the machine. He’s the culprit or the cause which resolves the inexplicable ending of a story by a device which drops out of the heavens, or rises through a trapdoor on stage.

Aristotle didn’t think much of it because it’s too plainly unbelievable. The deus ex machina, he thought, was the invention of the incompetent for an audience of simpletons.

Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas doesn’t know his ancient Greek. He also doesn’t know his fellow Germans. They have removed him from the running to lead the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in next year’s German national election. On his road to political oblivion, Maas has needed a public platform on which to regain his footing, he thinks. According to very well-informed Berlin sources, Maas is the official responsible, behind fifteen journalists  of Der Spiegel, for fabricating the evidence of the case of Alexei Navalny (lead image, left), after he landed in Berlin.

After their first account of the Novichok poisoning of Navalny failed the standard biochemical and forensic tests, they have invented a new one.  This is “harder”, they have reported, claiming for source a secret briefing in a Berlin bunker by the BND, Germany’s secret intelligence service.

But according to leading British organophosphate chemists, the new “Novichok” is not more credible than the first. This is also the reason no details of the substance have been handed over to the Russian Prosecutor-General, presented to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), or published in the German press. Maas’s deus ex machina isn’t visible, as even the ancient Greek audience demanded.  It’s offstage, in the dark.  

Last Monday, at what the German press reported as “a special secret session of the Parliamentary Control Board of the Bundestag”, unidentified officials told parliament deputies “that the poisoning of Navalny was carried out by Russian state agencies and with the approval of the Russian leadership. Navalny was poisoned with a Novichok variant that was even more dangerous than the substance used in the Skripal case. The poison is a variation of a known, already listed variant of the Novichok group – especially dangerous because it can also reach the body by inhalation.”

On Wednesday,  the German Defence Ministry announced that the results of the testing of Navalny’s blood and urine, plus a water bottle which had appeared in Berlin at the same time as Navalny,  would not be handed to the Russian Government, as it has been requesting. The results had been prepared by the Defence Ministry’s chemical warfare laboratory in Munich, the Institut für Pharmakologie und Toxikologie der Bundeswehr (IPTB), and announced on September 2. That announcement said there was “definite proof of a chemical nerve agent of the Novitchok group”.   The vagueness of this claim led to widespread disbelief, and a renewal of Russian government requests for the German evidence that a crime had been committed against Navalny. For that story, read this.

The Defence Ministry refused to disclose the IPTB “proof”. Instead, a letter was sent to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague. As a member state of the OPCW, “Russia has the information that is needed now and not Germany,” claimed the spokesman for the Defence Minister, Annegret Kramp-Karabauer.

Kramp-Karabauer had been Chancellor Angela Merkel’s candidate to lead the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) into next year’s election, and was given the defence ministry to promote herself in the polls. In February, after eight months of failing in the party, the ministry and the polls, she was forced to resign as the CDU leader.

Left, Annegret Kramp-Karabauer, German Defence Minister since July 2019 and leader of the Christian Democratic Party (CDU) until ousted in February 2020. Centre, Heiko Maas, German Foreign Minister since 2018. A leading figure of the Social Democratic Party, he is no longer a candidate for party leader in the 2021 elections.  Right, BND chief Bruno Kahl, a CDU politician and career protégé of Chancellor Merkel and Wolfgang Schauble, former finance minister.  

On Thursday, a report in Der Spiegel claimed that Bruno Kahl, head of the Federal Intelligence Service (Bundesnachrichtendienst,  BND),  had been the briefer at the secret parliament Control Board session, and that  he had claimed the new Novichok was “harder” than the previous forms in which it had been known.    Der Spiegel also reported that a technical team from the OPCW had been to the Charité Clinic in Berlin, where Navalny is hospitalised, to gather their own evidence.

The next day, September 11, the government spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said the OPCW was the best equipped to handle an issue that was “not a bilateral German-Russian problem.” “This is about a crime that took place in Russia with a chemical nerve agent that is internationally prohibited — the OPCW is the logical point of contact.”  

At that point, there were Navalny blood and urine samples in Russia from his hospitalisation in Omsk, immediately after the alleged attack. The chemical and toxicological details have been published here.  They included propofol,  pentobarbital, diazepam,  methoxyeugenol, pentobarbital, amantadine, thiopental, atropine, prednisolone, caffeine, phenothiazine derivatives, and tricyclic antidepressants. The Omsk Hospital report concluded: “cholinesterase inhibitors were not detected in blood and urine”. This means no sign of Novichok.

In Germany, according to seven journalists for Die Zeit,  the “result of the analysis of the traces by the Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology of the Bundeswehr, was poisoned with a novel further development of the chemical weapon Novichok – a variant that the world did not know until this attack, but which should be more malignant and deadly than those known before Navalny. The scientists found corresponding residues on Navalny’s hands and on the neck of a water bottle [Wasserflasche] from which he had been drinking.”

The only new evidence the Germans were announcing had come from the bottle. Research by Liane Theuerkauf first detected the blue-capped bottle in a handbag of Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya (right, and lead image), outside the Omsk Hospital on August 21. For details, see this.

The bottle escaped analysis in Omsk, and was
then taken on the private jet with Navalny to Berlin on August 22. Accompanying Navalnaya and the bottle was Maria Pevchikh. She has been identified by the BBC as head of investigations for Navalny’s foundation.  

Meduza, another Russian opposition organization, has added to details about Pevchikh in London, where she has worked with Navalny, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and other Russian regime-change figures. She had been in Tomsk with Navalny at their hotel, but avoided his Moscow flight from Tomsk. Instead, she went by car to Novosibirsk, then by plane to Omsk. She then flew from Omsk with Navalny on the August 22 charter jet to Berlin, alongside Navalnaya. Pevchikh arrived in the airport motorcade at the clinic. She and Navalnaya were in fire brigade ambulance with licence plate number 283.

Left: Pevchikh leaves ambulance B 283 to enter the Charité clinic – filmed by Ruptly   at Min 3:27:22. Right:  Eight seconds after Pevchikh, Navalnaya leaves the ambulance to enter the hospital, with two handbags – Min 3:27:30.  Research and photo identifications are by Liane Theurkauf. Pevchikh has avoided creating any internet trace for herself except for a dish rack product endorsement she published on Amazon on March 31, 2020.

The water bottle and Pevchikh are the only sources of the new Novichok which the Germans are now claiming to be their evidence of a crime. The only connection between these sources and German government announcements are German reporters for Der Spiegel and the Bellingcat group  working for British and NATO services and publishing an outlet they call The Insider. Bellingcat says Der Spiegel and Insider are “partners”.

Florian Roetzer, reporting in Telepolis,  has  identified Foreign Minister Maas and his ministry as having taken the initiative to send material on the Navalny case to OPCW. The Russian state press agency RIA-Novosti quoted defence spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Christoph Czwielung   as saying: “In our laboratory [IPTB]  we only showed the evidence. The results of this proof lie with the Federal Foreign Office and were forwarded to OPCW from there. What they have forwarded in detail, I cannot tell you.”  

On Friday, Roetzer also reported  that the Berlin Prosecutor-General’s office said it was giving conditional assistance to its Russian counterpart. It would provide “legal assistance for the Russian request for legal assistance and to obtain information on the state of health of A. Navalny, subject to his consent. Further information is currently not possible” (emphasis added).

The Russian representative at OPCW, Alexander Shulgin, responded that as of the end of the week nothing from Germany had been received at the OPCW. “Germany has not sent anything to the Technical Secretariat of the OPCW, either yesterday or this morning [September 11].” Late on Friday, Shulgin told Russian television, as reported by Tass: “They [OPCW] confirmed once again that the secretariat had received from Germany neither sample test results nor any other materials concerning this case until now, i.e. Friday’s evening… In this connection, Shulgin drew attention to Der Spiegel’s publication alleging that an OPCW delegation had visited Berlin’s Charité clinic and had received Navalny’s sample tests. ‘The OPCW told us that traditionally the secretariat does not comment on media publications,’ the Russian diplomat stressed.”

Over the weekend, the OPCW spokesman, Deepti Choubey, was asked by email:
“1. Has the OPCW been requested to send, and has the OPCW sent a team to the Charité Clinic in Berlin for collection of blood and urine samples relating to Alexei Navalny? 
2. Has the OPCW received blood and urine samples from Alexei Navalny for analysis of alleged chemical nerve agent poisoning?
3. Has the OPCW received evidence from Germany of an alleged chemical nerve agent in the Navalny case?
4. Is an Article IX procedure under way in relation to the Navalny case, and if so, what sections of the Article have been invoked?
5. What actions have been taken in relation to the Navalny case by the Executive Council and the Technical Secretariat pursuant to Article IX?”

Choubey (right) is an American, with a career record  of working for US Government-funded think-tanks, State Department officials, and US media.  According to her twitter stream, she is openly calling for job applicants  to “help us communicate about OPCW’s efforts to eliminate permanently chemical weapons”    

Choubey refuses to answer the Navalny case questions. Choubey’s superior, Kai Chen, head of OPCW’s external relations division, said: “we process all inquiries at the press office.” He had no explanation for the refusal to respond to questions on the record.  There is no OPCW confirmation that Maas has done more than send the OPCW a letter in which he makes the allegation of new Novichok poisoning.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov revealed on Friday exactly what Maas had done. Asked at a press conference, Will Russia push for the transfer of data on the Navalny case to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Lavrov replied: “It is imperative that we obtain information from our German colleagues. Something is happening to them. As you may be aware, on August 27, on the basis of a pre-investigation check, which immediately began in our country, Russia’s Prosecutor-General’s Office sent a request for legal assistance from the relevant German authorities in the case of the suspected poisoning of Mr Navalny. Later, we found out that this request was not forwarded and got stuck in the German Foreign Ministry. Only a week later, (around September 3) was this request finally sent to the justice authorities. An official representative of Berlin publicly announced this, saying that “now these requests are being reviewed by the justice authorities, which are independent in our country. We cannot tell you anything. They will do so themselves when they are ready.”

“Then it was announced that Germany had sent an official letter to the OPCW and would push this organisation’s Secretariat to take action. We have read this letter. It says that, according to German experts, it was poisoning, and the so-called Novichok agent was used. There were no other exchanges between Berlin and the OPCW. We are interested in receiving, if not directly, then through the OPCW, information that Germany is for some reason so painstakingly concealing.”

“Our permanent representative to the OPCW [Shulgin, pictured right]] has addressed the heads of the organisation’s secretariat several times. Each time, including last night, he was told that this organisation had not received any other facts to support the allegations of poisoning. This makes us wonder. Just yesterday in New York, a German representative to the UN was asked about the data and why Germany is refusing to provide them to the general public, including Russia, demanding that Russia must conduct an investigation. He said that these data are no longer the subject of bilateral Germany-Russia relations, and that they are already the subject of multilateral proceedings. The Germans cannot specify what kind of proceedings they are talking about.”

“I hope this ludicrous behaviour will stop, and Germany, if only for the sake of its reputation as a punctual nation, will honour its obligations under the treaty with the Russian Federation. An investigation is demanded of us, but all those who accompanied Mr Navalny on that trip are also relocating to Germany. This is all very unpleasant and gives rise to serious thoughts. So, it is in the interest of our German colleagues to preserve their reputation and provide all the necessary information that would in any way shed some light on their absolutely unfounded accusations.”

The German Government is also not confirming whether it has formally triggered an Article IX process for investigation of the allegations against Russia. The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) is the foundation document for the OPCW, and also its operating charter. Article IX provides not only the opportunity for the German government to request Russian government information on the Navalny case, but equally it allows the Russian government to require the German government to provide its evidence:

Source: https://www.opcw.org/  -- p.30.

In the procedure required by Article IX, “a State Party shall have the right to request the Executive Council to obtain clarification from another State Party on any situation which may be considered ambiguous or which gives rise to a concern about its possible non-compliance with this Convention. In such a case, the following shall apply: (a) The Executive Council shall forward the request for clarification to the State Party concerned through the Director-General not later than 24 hours after its receipt; (b) The requested State Party shall provide the clarification to the Executive Council as soon as possible, but in any case not later than 10 days after the receipt of the request.”

Lavrov and Shulgin have now revealed that Maas’s letter to the OPCW did not trigger an Article IX procedure, and that no such German request has been received in The Hague or forwarded to Moscow. For analysis of what happened in 2018, when the OPCW Executive Council responded  to the British Government’s allegations of Russian involvement in the Skripal case, read the book.  

A German source with detailed knowledge of Maas and his motives say that last month’s election of Olaf Scholtz, currently Germany’s finance minister, to lead the SPD in next year’s election  put an end to Maas’s political future, but not his ambition. “Maas is an average little guy with no following”, the source said, “and with Scholtz’s election in August, he’s been eliminated. But he has an unstoppable desire to make himself look important. His anti-Russian position has been well known. [In the Navalny case] he wanted to make himself important.” The source believes Maas has been providing Der Spiegel with information for their reports.

“Berlin thought it was washing its hands [of the Navalny case] by sending it to the OPCW”, the source adds.

A senior British organophosphate chemist says the German letter to the OPCW is a problem for his German scientific colleagues. “I have known some of the best regarded toxicologists in Europe. Several of them are German. They would be embarrassed at how the authorities are playing this out. It seems that ‘standard’ Novichok would not have been good enough in this poisoning. So the Germans needed a new peg to hang their hat on — a new variant, a new Novichok, which only the Russians could have developed. But what have the Germans done? Brilliantly, they have isolated and identified this new compound. A compound that cannot be on the current OPCW schedule, because it is so new.  However, rather than tell the scientific world about the compound and its structure, they are silent. One wouldn’t want Russia to know the chemical structure of a chemical that Russia has made, would you?”

“The crux of the issue remains the same. The Germans must name the chemical. The German scientists are being made to look stupid by withholding this. What is the chemical?  Can a legitimate German laboratory full of distinguished scientists compile a report which does not name the compound – a compound which by definition is not on the OPCW schedule?”

Leave a Reply