On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin denied accusations that the Kremlin was behind the poisoning of his top political rival, opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and accused the reports of being encouraged by U.S. intelligence services.
During an annual marathon news conference, speaking by video call, the Russian leader countered the allegations by claiming that if the Kremlin tried to poison Navalny, it would have driven the attack home.
” If such a desire had existed, it would have been done,” Putin said, chuckling.
Navalny became ill on a domestic flight to Russia on Aug. 20 and was flown to Germany two days later for treatment while he was in a coma. Labs in Germany, France, and Sweden, and experiments performed by the Chemical Weapons Prohibition Agency, confirmed that he was subjected to the Novichok nerve agent of the Soviet period. Accusations of complicity in the poisoning have been vehemently denied by Russian officials.
On Monday, the Bellingcat investigation organization and Russian publication The Insider released a report claiming that during their trips since 2017, operatives from the FSB, Russia’s national security agency, which is a top KGB successor, pursued Navalny, had ” advanced experience in chemical weapons, chemistry and medicine ” and ” were in the vicinity of the opposition activist in the days and hours of the opposition activist.
The investigation, undertaken by Bellingcat and The Insider in conjunction with CNN and Der Spiegel, found the suspected FSB agents and laboratories where after reviewing telephone metadata and flight records, poisons like Novichok were made. In 2019 and 2020, it listed two examples in which Navalny or his wife Yulia suffered from mysterious symptoms.
Navalny said the investigation has proved beyond doubt that on Putin’s orders, FSB agents attempted to kill him.
Putin alleged in his first comment since the release of the paper that the latest report relied on data supplied by U.S. spy agencies, even though its authors denied any link to the U.S. or any other Western intelligence services.
” It’s not some kind of investigation, it’s just the legalization of U.S. special services supplied materials,” he added, adding that it means that Navalny ” is relying on U.S. special services support.”
” It’s curious, and in that case, it is indeed necessary for special services to keep an eye on him,” Putin said. ” But that doesn’t mean there’s a need for him to be poisoned. Who wants that? “
He said that Navalny suspected the Kremlin of ordering him to be poisoned in order to increase his political profile as a leading figure in the opposition. “Such an approach would be seen as flawed by any sensible individual,” he said.