Analyzing and Disputing Russian Propaganda, RE: A Recent RT Article on Alexie Navalny
An article posted to Russia Today's website titled Russian Opposition Figure Navalny Sent to Prison Medical Ward After Inspections Find Symptoms of Respiratory Infection is a prime example of how Russian media twists information to suit the narrative of the Kremlin. The article was posted on the 6th of April and discusses the worsening health of Alexei Navalny, a prominent Putin critic and de-facto leader of the opposition movement against Putin and his political supporters.
Navalny returned to Russia in mid-January and was promptly subjected to a trial for the supposed crime of embezzlement, which resulted in a conviction and accompanying 32 month prison sentence. The article makes mention of this, but neglects to note the criticisms of both this case and previous others against Navalny. Indeed, when in 2013 Navalny faced a similar trial for embezzlement Mikhail Gorbachev himself openly criticized the case against Navalny as evidence that the Russian judiciary was not acting independently of the government, and was likely being used to suppress political opponents. It is not at all unreasonable to expect that this case is also a fabrication by the Kremlin, which has been known to weaponize the Russian legal system against domestic opponents.
The article goes on to minimize Navalny’s worsening health and the decision not to allow independent review of his health and living conditions, hand waving it away as not being “established practice” for prisoners to be seen by personal doctors. However, conditions in Russian prisons are known to be poor, with Tuberculosis being endemic and treatment regimens lacking. Navalny’s supporters claim he is currently imprisoned alongside multiple individuals with tuberculosis, which was noted in the RT article but not explored further, nor were any criticisms of Russia’s prison system raised. Circling back to not allowing Navalny to see a personal doctor, why should he not be allowed to do so? If Navalny’s health is “stable and satisfactory” as claimed by the prison officials quoted in the RT article, then it would be an easy political win for the Kremlin to allow an outside doctor to examine him and confirm his fine health. Of course this will not be done as no one not under the spell of Kremlin propaganda would ever believe that Navalny is not currently facing serious health issues, which sprung up after his imprisonment.
Finally the article discusses a protest staged by Navalny’s supporters outside his prison in Pokrov. The demonstration was headed by Anastasia Vasilyeva, who is a part of Alyans Vrachey or the “Doctors Alliance” organization in Russia. The article notes that the Doctors Alliance was designated as a foreign agent by the Russian government, ostensibly as an attempt to discredit the group. The reasoning for designating the group as a foreign agent however is laughably flimsy. It is clear that this designation was forced upon the group as a political ploy to punish them for their work, which often makes light of problems within the Russian healthcare system.
To summarize, the article selected for analysis today was short, but even so it contained multiple distortions of the truth and flailing attempts to denigrate Navalny and his supporters. All these attempts are easily rebutted, but while the Russian propaganda machine is a clumsy one it is also tireless in its efforts to prop up the Kremlin in the face of increasing opposition to Putin and his allies.