Russian anti-Putin activists and journalists are being doused, maybe blinded with green astringent

Alexei Navalny was doused with a green chemical
(Image credit: Twitter/@Navalny)

Over the past two weeks, several prominent Russian opposition activists and journalists have been attacked with "zelyonka" (Russian for "brilliant green"), an inexpensive astringent used for medical purposes that stains the skin green. Zelyonka attacks have been used fairly commonly in protests and against critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin, because "it stains the skin and is hard to wash off, which can be a problem if you want to take the media spotlight," BBC News reports, and "also, it doesn't do any lasting damage, which means attackers will not be facing charges of grave bodily harm." Except two recent attacks have left the victim with burned eyes and possibly permanent partial blindness.

In the case of leading Putin critic Alexei Navalny, who was doused with green stain outside his Anti-Corruption Foundation office in Moscow on April 27, doctors diagnosed him with a "chemical burn in his right eye," suggesting that the liquid was "mixed with something else" because "simple zelyonka would not burn the eyes seriously," The Moscow Times reports. "It looks funny but it hurts like hell," Navalny tweeted. Earlier this year, Navalny was hit with a less caustic zelyonika solution.

See more

On April 28, Natalya Fyodorova, an activist for the Yabloko opposition party, was hit with a "chemical solution" that has left her at least temporarily blind in one eye and feeling ill. Most of the eight or more other zelyonka attacks on liberal politicians, Putin critics, and independent journalists since February have apparently been with normal zelyonka. Activists say police have seemed uninterested in finding the perpetrators, but Navalny supporters say they have identified his attackers as members of the radical pro-Kremlin group "SERB." On Sunday, the pro-Putin TV channel REN TV, which has ties to the security services, released a video of the attack on Navalny, with the face of the apparent attacker blurred out.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up
See more

On Twitter, Navalny said the person shooting the video appears to have known he was going to be attacked beforehand, and combined with the blurred-out faces, "this is the best proof that the FSB and the [Presidential Administration] were also involved. Trademark style."

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.

Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.