Navalny Instagram via AP
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny says he believes President Vladimir Putin poisoned him with a rare nerve agent.
In an interview published Thursday, Navalny told German magazine Der Spiegel that the use of the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok meant that his poisoning had been orchestrated by one of the Russian intelligence agencies. He said the heads of those agencies “cannot make such a decision without being instructed by Putin. They report to him.”
“I claim Putin was behind the crime, and I have no other explanation for what happened. I’m not saying this out of self-adulation, but on the basis of facts. The most important fact is Novichok,” Navalny said. Der Spiegel.
Novichok was also used to poison former KGB spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in 2018 in Britain. Both survived the attack, which Western nations attributed to Moscow.
Putin has denied any involvement, even suggesting at one point that Navalny may have poisoned himself.
Following the publication of Der Spiegel’s interview, the Kremlin angrily denied the allegation. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, called it groundless and deeply offensive. He also accused Navalny of working for the CIA and following the instructions of the US intelligence agency.
Navalny became seriously ill on August 20 during a flight from the Siberian city of Tomsk to Moscow. The plane made an emergency landing and was taken to a hospital in Omsk. After a few days, Navalny was allowed to be transferred to a Berlin hospital and put into a medically induced coma.
In the extensive interview with Der Spiegel, Navalny described what he experienced while on the plane.
“I leave the bathroom, I turn to the waiter and instead of asking for help, to my surprise, I say:” I have been poisoned. I’m dying. “And then I lay on the ground in front of him to die. It’s the last thing I see – a face that looks at me with a slight amazement and a light smile,” he told the magazine.
Navalny was discharged from the Charité hospital in Berlin late last month and remained in Germany while recovering.
During hospitalization, a German military laboratory found traces of Novichok in its biomedical samples. Further tests conducted by laboratories in Sweden and France confirmed these findings, fueling suspicions that Navalny’s poisoning was related to his opposition efforts.
European leaders have called for sanctions against Russia and Putin following the poisoning. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Navalny “is the victim of a crime that was intended to silence him”.
Navalny said in the interview that Putin may have been motivated to poison him due to unrest in Russia’s Khabarovsk region, where people have been demonstrating for weeks after the arrest of a popular governor, and fears that Russia may soon face a situation similar to that in Belarus. .
“He saw what happened in Khabarovsk, where people have been taking to the streets to protest for 80 days and the Kremlin still has no idea what to do with it,” Navalny said. “The Kremlin realized they had to take extreme measures to prevent a” Belarusian scenario “.”
A Navalny spokesman said his bank accounts were frozen and his Moscow apartment seized during his hospitalization. The opposition leader said so Der Spiegel who still plans to return to Russia.
“Not going back would mean that Putin has won and achieved his goal. And my job now is to remain the guy who isn’t afraid. And I’m not afraid,” Navalny said. “I would not give Putin the gift of not returning to Russia”.
NPR’s Lucian Kim contributed to this report.