As of last week, Russian dissident Alexei Navalny was still in a coma in a German hospital, with doctors there saying that they were pretty sure he’d been poisoned. At the time, their initial tests indicated that he’d been subjected to some form of unspecified cholinesterase inhibitors, commonly found in weed killers and similar chemical compounds. Today, however, the diagnosis has changed. Further testing reportedly indicates that Navalny was actually poisoned with a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok group. If that name sounds familiar, it should. We’ve seen it before, and it also involved some enemies of Vladimir Putin who “mysteriously” fell ill while in a foreign country. (CNN)

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was poisoned with a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok group, the German government said Wednesday.

Navalny, who fell ill on a flight from the Siberian city of Tomsk to Moscow last month, is being treated at a Berlin hospital.

In a statement, German government spokesman Steffen Siebert said it was “startling” that “Alexei Navalny was the victim of an attack with a chemical nerve agent in Russia.”

“The federal government condemns this attack in the strongest possible terms.”

“We hope for a full recovery of Alexei Navalny,” the statement added.

That sounds pretty definitive, but you would need the correct specialists to make that sort of diagnosis. (Clearly, the Germans have access to the correct sources.) This would seem to point the finger even more squarely at the Russians because they have a well-documented history in this area. So first of all, what are these poisons from the Novichok group? You can read a pretty good rundown from the BBC here but it’s material that was developed well before the current episode under discussion.

Novichok means “newcomer” in Russian. It’s used to describe a group of advanced nerve agents the Soviet Union cooked up in the 70s and 80s. Described as a “fourth-generation chemical weapon,” intelligence officials learned that the toxic cocktails were developed under a program codenamed Foliant.

And the Russians haven’t been shy about using them, either. It was the same deadly mixture that nearly killed former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia in Salisbury, England in 2018. If the Russians could reach that far from their home turf and target someone on British soil, how hard do you think it would be to manage the same feat in Siberia?

If the family hadn’t managed to bring international pressure on the Russians and get Navalny transferred to Germany from that Siberian hospital, the noted Putin critic would in all likelihood be dead by now. Even as things stand today, Navalny’s survival isn’t a 100% sure thing. And even if he does live, the doctors have warned his family that he may have permanent nervous system injury.

So will these revelations change anything? will Putin and his KBG pals be held accountable for this? Don’t get your hopes up. The Russians will continue to deny any involvement and claim it was all some sort of big misunderstanding. John just reported the other day about how Russian prosecutors have already closed the books on this one and said that there was no need for any further investigation. At most, as I have predicted from the beginning of this saga, if enough sustained pressure is applied to the Kremlin, they’ll come up with some patsy who is already on Putin’s enemies list, blame him for the deed and get rid of him. It’s just how Vladimir Putin rolls, and expecting that leopard to change his spots at this stage in his life is a fool’s errand.