Russia’s ignoble policy of intolerance and eliminating by all means possible every form of opposition has again manifested by the recent poisoning of Alexei Navalny, an opposition leader and a well-known President Putin’s critic. Mr Navalny, 44, suddenly fell ill on a flight to Moscow from Tomsk, a city in Siberia. He had a black tea at an airport coffee shop before getting on the plane that morning and it is believed that he was poisoned. His plane later made an emergency landing in Omsk and he was treated in Omsk Emergency Hospital. And later he was flown to Berlin and the German experts and authorities have since confirmed, after detoxicological test, that he was poisoned with a chemical nerve agent of the Novichok group, a military-grade neurotoxin – the same biological weapon that was used in the poisoning of a Russian ex-spy and his daughter in the U.K about two and a half years ago. This is not the first time Mr Navalny would be poisoned. The German government and the world leaders have since condemned the attack. German chancellor Angela Merkel has demanded that the Russian government should provide an explanation on the incident and also threatened to stop the gas pipeline project by the two countries. The very expensive and ambitious, but controversial project is currently at the final stage. The European Union officials are also said to be weighing up how to respond and the appropriate action to be taken against Russia.
Sadly, as we mentioned above, this is not the first time that Russia is being accused of using nerve agents, poison against the opposition in recent times. In 2018, this same poison was used against a former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and the daughter in Salisbury, UK. Mr Skripal, a double agent incurred the wrath of Kremlin when he started spying for Britain and also passed the identity of dozens of his country’s spies to the U.K.’s MI6. The then British Prime Minister Theresa May was reported to have said that it was highly likely Russia was behind the poisoning. And an intelligence analyst Glenmore Trenear-Harvey, who formerly worked for MI6 also said that he believed the case has the hallmarks of Putin’s involvement. Listen to him, “For this to be in a shopping mall, for this to be in public, and for the fellow himself to be a former intelligence officer, immediately one looks to potential attackers, ultimately that would be as the result of President Putin authorizing it,” In fact, the surveillance footage of the movement of those Russian intelligence operatives that flew into UK that period also pointed to the same conclusion. The whole world saw it. And I hope you still remember the slow but painful death of former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned with radioactive polonium in 2006 also in London. Litvinenko, 43, was also an outspoken critic of Putin who fled Russia for Britain six years before he was poisoned. He died after drinking green tea laced with the rare and very potent radioactive isotope at London’s Millennium Hotel. In a report published in 2016, a British judge found that Litvinenko was killed in an assassination carried out by Russia’s security services – with the likely approval of President Vladimir Putin. As usual, Russia denied any responsibility for Litvinenko’s death. The other guy’s was black tea and for Litvinenko it’s green tea. Russian tea!… All these where investigated and reported to have Russian finger prints on them. We don’t want to talk about others like the murder of another opposition politician Boris Nemtsov’s in Moscow, etc. Yes, today it is the Russian citizens, but tomorrow it can be other nationals, these weapons could also be used in external conflicts or even be transferred to rogue nations and terror groups.
Unfortunately, Russia’s aggression does not stop with the elimination of internal dissenting voices. Look at the annexation of Crimea, the invasion Ukraine, the claim of the Arctic and the natural resources, its constant provocative intrusion into other countries’ air and maritime space. American air force is always scrambling fighter jets to intercept and wade off Russian surveillance planes of the coast of Alaska. As I write, the dust is yet to settle on the recent confrontation between a US and Russian military convoys in Syria. Or should we talk about Russia’s reported vexatious meddling in the 2016 American presidential elections? The issue has simply refused to go away in the US. And, unfortunately, again, this same Russia, with Iran and China are being accused of launching another cyber attacks on US 2020 presidential campaign just two months to the election. Today, in violation of UN embargo, there are about 5,000 Russians mercenaries in Libya and it is also being accused of supplying arms to one of the warring factions. Russians are notorious for violating treaties, resolutions and agreements. The international community, especially the West, is always suspicious of Russia. There is that mutual distrust, perpetual struggle and competition, constant spying and permanent sabotaging of interest between them.
Now, there is this fear that Russia may soon (if not already) start exporting these very lethal substances and the likes to others as it is seen as a country that is desperate and ready to do everything, anything to earn money and remain relevant. Will the United Nations, European Union, NATO and the world continue to watch as this happens? Each has a role to play in stopping this threat. Or will they again back down as soon as the Russians flaunt their nuclear strength? Remember Mr Putin did that as the EU was talking about sanctions during the Litvinenko incident. He told them to remember that Russia was a nuclear state and everybody scampered home immediately. What happened to all the treaties against development of such biological, chemical and nuclear weapons? Are they unenforceable?? Unfortunately there is already proliferation of chemical and nuclear weapons. We saw chemical weapon used by Syrian government against her people. And I was surprised recently to hear that it was also used in the first Gulf war. A soldier friend of mine and a victim who is still battling with the effects till today brought that to my notice. She said she is today the only surviving victim from her unit. Presently, Russian mercenaries in Libya are also been accused of using chemical weapons, a nerve agent against GNA forces in Salah Al-Din area in southern Tripoli. These weapons are just everywhere.
We believe that Russia’s internal and external aggressive actions stem from a people trying to survive, compete and regain their lost glory. But they are going about it in a wrong way. I believe that what they basically need now to take their rightful place is an urgent economic and political reform. They must get these two right if they really want to stage a comeback. Presently it looks like it is agitated on all fronts and this is affecting its behaviour and relationship with others. She must look inwards to solve her problems and also learn how to move on with the rest of the world in a positive competitive way. First it must free up the political space. Russians must be allowed to express themselves politically. You cannot claim to be a democracy when you gag and eliminate all forms of opposition. Democracy thrives on freedom and rule of law. There must freedom of speech, freedom association and freedom movement and when you feel that somebody has done something wrong then charge him to court for trial. Don’t suspect, torture and eliminate as is the current situation. No. Secondly, the country must decisively deal with corruption. The problem of Russia is corruption. Corruption has become a way of life for Government officials and the corrupt political class in Russia. Bribery, organized crime, Mafiya and oligarchy influence must be checked immediately. For now, it looks like corruption is lawful and that there is a partnership between the government and the criminals. And more frightening is that the Mafiyas are moving out, extending their activities to other countries. And I am afraid that with their powerful influence and access they can easily steal and transfer or sell these nuclear and biological weapons.
This is a country well-endowed with natural and human resources, but has been overtaken by corruption and mismanagement. Aging infrastructures: from energy to transport, industries to military. There is dilapidation, mismanagement and decay everywhere. It has some of the largest oil and gas reserves in the world. But over dependence on this has also become a problem with the constant fluctuations in the energy market. We advice that it should also use some on these resources it is currently investing in arms race to build ventures that will create jobs for the citizens. The unemployment in the country is terrible high rate. And it has left its well-educated populace stranded or forced into crime and other nefarious activities. This is what needs to be done urgently and not silencing and eliminating critics and the opposition. The country should also avoid those actions that attract sanctions and alienate them from other countries and investors. Like now, the Germans are already talking about abandoning a near- finished multi-billion joint project because of the current poisoning incident. No country prospers like this. All these are avoidable with the right behaviour.
Interestingly, the Russians are currently advertising their COVID 19 vaccine – Sputnik V. Their Ambassador to Nigeria, Alexey Shebarshin recently gave the samples to the Nigeria Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire in Abuja during the former’s visit to the ministry. Other countries have also received same. But I see more of a country that is desperate for resources and name. Otherwise, why the haste to announce and market such a sensitive product when it has not fully gone through all the trial stages? The world and experts were shocked recently when President Putin hurriedly announced that Russia has produced the first world vaccine for the devastating virus without the due and complete procedure for coming up with such. At the time of announcement we learnt that the Russian vaccine had not gone through the last stage of trial – the third stage. And please what is the position now? Has it gone through it? A wrong or badly produced vaccine will sure wreck more havoc than the virus itself. But Mr Putin and his Russia can make the world to believe and relate better with them by always playing by rules. You cannot be giving out vaccine (life) and poison (death) at the same time and still expect people to trust you.