Speed Reads

happening in russia

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

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.

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.

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."