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By Liane Theuerkauf ,  Munich, and John Helmer, Moscow 

Between his arrival in Berlin on August 22, his release from the Charité medical clinic on September 22,  and January 16, the day before his return to Russia, Alexei Navalny performed the nineteenth century ritual of walking in forests, thinking. The German term for this is Waldeinsamkeit, literally “forest loneliness”.   

The Romantic equivalent for the English was expressed by William Wordsworth’s wandering lonely as a cloud in his famous poem of 1807. Germans usually get their Romantic tonic from the woods before Mother Nature pushes up the narcissi.

Liane Theuerkauf has compiled a dossier from open sources, most of them Navalny himself and people he employed during his German sojourn, to reveal that during his wanderlust he wasn’t so much thinking as plotting. The forests he visited included the Black Forest of southwestern Germany and the Swiss woods around Basel, Switzerland. Because the German season was winter, Navalny may also have spent the New Year’s holiday in the Spanish Canary Islands in the Atlantic, off Morocco.  The evidence for that is a single German press report, apparently leaked by German security guards.  

Not even the clouds were Wordsworthian lonely for Navalny. On the ground in the Black Forest he was surrounded by more than one hundred police and secret service agents; in the air above, there were helicopter patrols and electronic signal monitoring aircraft. Roadblocks, checkpoints,  and  an encrypted communication tower, specially set up for him the day before his arrival, caused more dismay and discussion among the villagers (lead image, left) than they had experienced in a long time. But solitariness and solitude were what Navalny attempted to convey with his regular publication of photographs.

They were camouflage. OPERATION WALDEINSAMKEIT  cost the German state more than €25 million in men and equipment.  It encouraged Navalny himself to believe that on his return to Moscow, his rescue by the intelligence planners he had met and  talked with on his forest wanderings would be certain – and swift.

He has now been transferred to serve his 2 year-8 month prison sentence at the special measures prison known as IK-2 Pokrov (lead image, right).   The special measures of this unit of the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service, near Yaroslavl – about 100 kilometres by road, two and a half hours driving east of Moscow – include a regimen of 24-hour supervision; constant make-work activity from 6 in the morning to 10 at night; 15 minutes’ time for letter writing; one hour free time per day.  The regimen has been designed for isolation of Islamic terrorists. Some of the 400 inmates are not allowed to be spoken to by the others.  Visits from lawyers and family require advance application and authorisation, the processing of which usually takes four to eight weeks.

The reputation of IK-2 Prokrov is so fearsome among Russian convicts that those who can try bribing their way to other places.

Navalny has overestimated his power. Liane Theuerkauf’s dossier records how he was encouraged by German government officials and their allies to do  this.

In what follows I have listed where Navalny was during his stay in the Black Forest region and whom he met, at least those whom he has disclosed he met. The villages of Ibach and Kirchzarten and the cities of Freiburg and Stuttgart are the main ones he confirms visiting. Side-trips to Dresden, to Basel, and to an unidentified lakeside or seaside location are also included in the record.

A note of caution: Navalny and his entourage did not post their photographs and texts at the time of the events they portray. Navalny has aimed in this way to create uncertainty about his movements, and hide certain events. Therefore, the reader cannot know if the listed excursions took place in this order in which I am presenting them.

Excursions from Ibach

1. Vesperstube Unterkrummenhof, Alexander Schmidt, Unterkrummen 3, 79859 Schluchsee — 14 km from Ibach.


2. Hiking on the Ibach Panorama Trail.


3. The Todtnauer waterfall, 23 kms from Ibach.


4. St Blasien,on the banks of the River Alb, 6 km from Ibach.


5. Excursion to visit Shetland ponies.


https://www.instagram.com/p/CHmzWMPlpLY/ These photographs were taken by Vladislav Bulgakov, a specialist photographer from Kiev.

6. Navalny with a flock of sheep.

7. On a frosty meadow in a new jogging outfit from the Italian company Jaked.


8. Navalny feeds ducks at the Titisee-Neustadt, 39 km from Ibach.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CIIei4pFCDY/ Duck feeding has become a standard legend in NATO  intelligence operations with Novichok. Depicted here, Navalny’s duck feed came after his Novichok episode. In the case of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in March 2018 , they fed the ducks before their Novichok episode, as the Central Intelligence Agency attempted to report here.  

9. Navalny in an unknown place (probably a sea or lake promenade).


10. Navalny and his wife Yulia in an unidentified location  (meadow with lumps of snow and ice)


11. Navalny & Co in Dresden; we know the precise date to have been Friday, December 18, 2020.

For more on that episode, including the armed detachment around Navalny, click to view.  Accompanying Navalny at the Dresden filming attempt outside the apartment where Vladimir Putin had lived as a junior KGB agent in the late 1980s, was Maria Pevchikh operating a RED RANGER camera with Rode microphone. This equipment is rarely used in Germany because it is very expensive at about  €60,000.

 For more details of the camera, read this.

12. Navalny in his Jaked jogging outfit in the snow.


People in contact with Navalny

  1. Björn Leber (fitness trainer).

From October 16, 2020 until about December 5, Navalny was in training sessions with Björn Leber in the Black Forest. The training mostly took place in the chalet complex, Cuckoo’s Hideaway. Once or twice he trained at the Alb Gym in St Blasien. Whenever Navalny was at a training session, the gym was closed by the police to everyone else.

For more on Leber’s role, click. Other regional German media running approved stories included: https://www.swr.de/  and  https://www.rtl.de/
A Reuters “special report” cribbed from these media to retell Leber’s story.

By early December, Navalny and his entourage moved to the old university town of Freiburg, near the French border. It was here that Navalny secretly worked on the film with Vladimir Putin as its target called “Putin’s Palace”.

 2. Franz Stadelmann (accordion player, hunter).

A German national newspaper published an article on Navalny and Stadelmann on December 17.

3. Black Forest hunting party.

Right to left: Navalny staff chief, Leonid Volkov with wife;  Zakhar Navalny; Yulia Navalnaya; Navalny; unidentified woman;   Gabriele Voser (owner of Cuckoo’s Hideaway), her husband René Voser (friend and hunting partner of Stadelmann);  and Franz Stadelmann. The picture was taken between October 16 and 25. On October 20 Navalny’s staff flew their drone over the Gelendzik palace, so it is likely that when this photograph was taken, Navalny and Volkov knew they had their “Putin Palace” drone footage.

From the record of this excursion we find out some interesting things:

“They went hunting together, sang Swiss folk songs and took selfies.”

“Franz Stadelmann (78) is from Escholzmatt, in the Swiss canton of Lucerne. By surprise, he  met the Kremlin critic Alexey Nawalny (44) in the Black Forest in mid-October. Stadelmann was visiting friends in Germany for wild boar hunting. What he didn’t know at first: Navalny, who was recovering from the nerve agent attack, slept in the same house as him.

“The Russian was very interested in hunting. ‘So we took him. We had no luck. We haven’t seen a single boar. But that was logical with all the policemen running around in the woods for Navalny’s protection. They scared the animals away.’”

“So the whole region where the Kremlin critic was staying was under police protection. In the streets and around the cottage the officials patrolled. ‘I’ve never seen anything like it,’ said Stadelmann. ‘There must have been a hundred security forces.’  He explains: ‘Even as we walked into the woods with Navalny, police ran in front of and behind us.’ And because no  game appeared, he played something to Navalny every now and then. ‘He had a huge joy,’ says Stadelmann. ‘He even tried to sing along and dance. In the end we rocked together.’ ‘We then showed him two high bunks. He climbed up himself and lay down.’ Stadelmann will never forget the three days with Navalny.”

4. Leonid Volkov.  

Navalny and Volkov at the Todtnauer waterfall -- The photo was posted on November 10, but it was taken on the same day as photos Navalny had posted of himself at the waterfall on November 1-2. 

Navalny and Volkov on a meadow near Ibach.

This was posted on November 10, but from the clothing it is certain that the photo was taken on the same day as the group photo with Stadelmann; that was in mid-October. Volkov seems to have visited Navalny several times.

5. Evgeny Chichvarkin, the London-based financier for Navalny, visited with his wife.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CHU0 ocF 2i/

All photos were taken on the same day.

Navalny makes pancakes in the kitchen of their chalet at Cuckoo’s Hideaway:

This is the only photo Navalny posted from his stay at the luxury complex at Ibach. For details of the accommodation and costs, click to read. After Navalny had left, the owners publicised their property.   In this video clip, Gabriele Voser mentioned that the internet was slow at the hideaway, and mobile telephone reception was poor. For Navalny, however, the German security services set up a special communications tower in Ibach village.

December 17 – Navalny at the German Public Prosecutor’s Office in Berlin

“I’ve been interrogated all day”, Navalny tweeted. “The German prosecutor’s office questioned me at the request of the Russian authorities”. “I spent the entire first half of the day in the German prosecutor’s office. There I was interrogated at the request of the Russian side.” 

Navalny failed to notice that he was contradicting himself:  in one claim, he said he had spent “all day”; in a following claim, he said he had spent the “entire first half of the day”.

The Federal Ministry of Justice confirmed the interrogation of Navalny:   “Among other standard questions, they asked Navalny what he ate and which medications he took around the time of his poisoning, as well as whether he suffers from diabetes.”

The Navalny family in Stuttgart

In December, Yulia Navalnaya was in Stuttgart for a photo shoot for the Russian edition of  Harper’s Bazaar. “In December we filmed in Germany, in a studio near Stuttgart,” she is reported as saying.   The timing has been confirmed by interviewer Dasha Veledeeva on February 13, 2021:  “The shooting was done in December in Germany. And my interview with Julia on Zoom happened on January 11 exactly.”

Black Forest Studios

Two days after the “Putin’s Palace” video was released on January 19, 2021, the local publication Badische Zeitung reported its scoop. “Film studio in Kirchzarten produces Alexei Navalny’s revealing video. The video was produced until Wednesday of last week at the former Kurhaus in Kirchzarten in the Black Forest Studios – under great security precautions and strict secrecy.”

“The production of his anti-corruption video took place in secrecy and without the knowledge of the [Kirchzarten] community. As reported by the BZ, Kremlin opponent Alexei Navalny shot his latest video accusing Russia’s President Vladimir Putin of corruption at Black Forest Studios in Kirchzarten. The two-week filming apparently took place in such strict secrecy that the Kirchzarteners did not notice anything of their prominent guest.”  

So now we know that the Black Forest Studios were rented for a two-week period; this means that Navalny’s video was produced at the Black Forest Studios from December 30 to January 13.  On the same day he announced his return to Russia. Apparently, his mission in Germany was fulfilled. Navalny was able to complete the video under the protection of German security experts in a film studio in a remote location in Germany, safe from Russian surveillance.

The Black Forest media then produced their second major scoop. Navalny’s video had been made by a production company from Los Angeles, California.  Kosmo Films, it turned out as the German press reported, was a studio led by Nina Gwyn Weiland and Sebastian Weiland, a native of Freiburg, who had worked in the American film industry for years in California, and who had started their work in the Black Forest just in time for Navalny, as Weiland confirmed himself. According to his remarks to local reporters, they had received a request from the US to make their production studio available.  

For Weiland’s line of business advertising luxury cars, click to read.

When Reuters, led by Catherine Belton and Janet McBride, a Reuters editor on the Kremlin’s invitation list, reported Navalny’s film, they concealed that Weiland, Kosmo Films, and Black Forest Studios were working under contract to an unidentified US firm.  According to the Weilands, they had no role in arranging the exterior filming in Dresden at Putin’s old apartment. The identity of the US contractor who produced that segment and paid the costs of the entire production, remains secret.

In camouflage on December 28

On December 28, 2020 Navalny posted this photo:


The timing is odd, for the photo had most likely been taken in mid-October when Navalny had gone hunting boar with Franz Stadelmann and René Voser of Cuckoo’s Hideaway in Ibach. On January 16, Navalny posted another a selfie with his wife from his time at Ibach almost three months earlier, or so he said. The tweet  and Facebook posts have now disappeared.


But a posting by Navalny’s press spokesman Kira Yarmysh, published on January 23, reveals the same location and the same time as Navalny’s selfie with his wife. Through the window in the background, behind Yarmysh, Navalny and his wife can be seen posing for their picture. Since the date of this publication followed a week after Navalny’s return to Moscow, but is much later than their stay at Ibach, what is revealed is a plan of deception by the Navalny staff. To what purpose isn’t clear at all.

Navalny in Basel, Switzerland

On December 28, 2020 Navalny posted this photograph:

Left, Navalny at Basel;  right, the Basel Minster (Cathedral).

It is noticeable that the trees and bushes in the background are still very green. It is therefore likely that Navalny was in Basel shortly after he was released from Charité in Berlin on September 22. From October 1, he started giving a series of interviews in Berlin,   and the German and international media published photographs of him in the city then.   On October 14 the German security forces flew him to Ibach. Thus, it appears Navalny must have been in Switzerland between September 25 and 30.  Why was he in Switzerland, what role did the Swiss government play in guarding him, and why has this visit gone unreported in the Swiss media?

If Navalny was seeking expert medical treatment in Switzerland, two possibilities are the eye clinic of Basel University Hospital and the Department of Neurorehabilitation of the Felix Platter Hospital. The Swiss state authorities in the Basel medical system revealed how sensitive they are to disclosures of any evidence bearing on the Navalny case; for more, click to read

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