Putin threatens life of leading opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, then arrrests him and others at demonstrations in Russia — Meanwhile, Tillerson is racing to Moscow

For background, see

(1) Andrew Higgins, “Key Putin Opponent Arrested in Moscow During Anti-Corruption Protests,” New York Times, March 26, 2017.

(2) Dan Bilefsky, “A Putin Opponent Is Doused in Green. He Makes It Work,” New York Times, March 20, 2017.

(3) Russell Goldman, “DNA Confirms Assassination Victim Was Half Brother of Kim Jong-un, Malaysia Says,” New York Times, March 15, 2017.


“Washington, D.C. ­– U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released the following statement today on the assassination of former Russian parliamentarian and Putin critic Denis Voronenkov in Kiev, Ukraine:

“Today, in yet another brazen act of Russian state terrorism, former Russia parliamentarian Denis Voronenkov was assassinated in broad daylight on the streets of Kiev. This horrific crime marks the continuation of a campaign of KGB-style brutality designed to intimidate anyone who dares to oppose the tyranny of Vladimir Putin.

“Denis Voronenkov spoke out against Putin’s reign of terror and his illegal invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea. He was also assisting Ukrainian prosecutors with the treason case against former Ukrainian president and Putin stooge, Viktor Yanukovych. Sadly, Denis Voronenkov has joined others like Sergei Magnitsky and Boris Nemtsov who have paid with their lives for speaking the truth, for in Putin’s Russia, there is no greater crime.

“My thoughts are with Denis’s wife, Maria, and their children. In the difficult days ahead, I pray they find solace in his loving memory and the pride of his courageous example.”

When the life of the leading opposition figure in Russia is directly threatened, we may safely assume that the action did not occur without the knowledge and direction of Russia’s all-powerful dictator, Vladimir Putin.

On March 19, 2017, Alexsei Navalny, that opposition leader, was attacked with a green chemical that turned out to be benign. Following the recent assassination in Malaysia of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s half-brother, by having a deadly chemical smeared on him, the threat and the lesson for Navalny could not have been clearer: Next time it could be a deadly chemical. Putin in the past has demonstrated that Russia has great mastery and experience in this area.

This weekend Navalny and other demonstrators against the Putin regime were arrested, as anti-corruption demonstrations were being carried out throughout the country. Anti-government demonstrations have also been taking place in Minsk, in Belarus.

Two years ago, on February 27, 2015, Boris Nemtsov, then the leading opposition leader in Russia, was assassinated a few hundred yards from the Kremlin. The available evidence suggests strongly that Putin was behind the crime.


“Vladimir Putin and the Assassination of Boris Nemtsov on February 27, 2015,”The Trenchant Observer, February 6, 2017.

“As Kerry travels to Moscow, Putin thwarts investigation into assassination of Boris Nemtsov on February 27, 2015,” The Trenchant Observer, December 14, 2015.

“REPRISE: After disappearing act, Vladimir Putin remains prime suspect in Nemtsov assassination,” The Trenchant Observer, March 19, 2017.

“Nemtsov assassination represents a stark warning to the opposition: “Criticize Putin, especially on the Ukraine, and you may die,” The Trenchant Observer, February 28, 2015 (Updated March 6, 2015)

So, this is the same Vladimir Putin that Donald Trump has been so careful not to criticize, and for whom at times he has even acted as U.S. apologist-in-chief.

It is the same Vladimir Putin and Russian government with which Trump’s campaign had such extensive contacts, which are currently the subject of an FBI counter-intelligence investigation into possible coordination and collusion during Russia’s intervention in the 2016 elections.

This is the buddy of Marine Le Pen, the right-wing candidate of the French Front National, who is likely to be one of the top two candidates in the first round of the French presidential elections in April, 2017. She is the candidate of the same party which we know received millions of euros in financial assistance from Putin and the Russians. She has just visited Putin in Moscow.


Adam Nossiter, “Marine Le Pen of France Meets With Vladimir Putin in Moscow,” New York Timesl, March 24, 2017.

Isabelle Mandraud (Moscou, correspondante), “Vladimir Poutine adoube Marine Le Pen au Kremlin; Le président russe a reçu vendredi la candidate du FN qui représente à ses yeux « le spectre politique qui croit rapidement en Europe »,” Le Monde, le 25 mars 2017.

Olivier Faye, “La Russie, un modèle sociétal et un allié stratégique pour le FN; La rumeur de rencontres officieuses entre Marine Le Pen et Vladimir Poutine n’a cessé d’alimenter la chronique, ces dernières années,”Le Monde, le 25 mars, 2017 (à 11h33, Mis à jour à 13h52).

Editorial, “Le poutinisme, ce spectre qui hante l’Europe; En recevant vendredi Marine Le Pen, Vladimir Poutine poursuit sa politique de déstabilisation de l’ordre continental qui garantit la paix en Europe occidentale depuis 1945,” Le Monde, le 25 mars 2017 (à 10h51, Mis à jour à 14h51).

Vladimir Putin is the powerful leader who has fascinated Donald Trump, who has some extraordinary influence over Trump the precise nature of which is as yet unknoown.

President Donald Trump, the pro-Russian American Leader, has dispatched Rex Tillerson, his Secretary of State, to race off to Moscow to meet with Sergey Lavrov, Putin’s foreign minister, on a schedule which originally omitted Tillerson’s attendance at the first NATO foreign ministers summit since Trump took office.

Tillerson is racing off to Moscow, which should remain a pariah state so long as it occupies the Crimea and the eastern Ukraine as a result of military invasions, before he even has a State Department team in place.

It is as if America were sending a team of two players to face off against the full Russian team of 11 players, in a football match which could decisively affect the future course of the season, and perhaps the football program itself, for many years to come.

Tillerson should get his team together and develop his positions and strategy for dealing with Russia, America’s greatest antagonist on the world stage today, before he races off to talk to Putin or his foreign minister.

Instead, he is following the instructions of America’s pro-Russian president as the latter takes the nation further down the path of appeasement of Putin and Moscow, despite their invasions of the Ukraine, their intervention in the American elections, and their ongoing efforts to subvert NATO, the European Union, and elections in Europe.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.