Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed Thursday that opposition politician Alexey Navalny “is enjoying the support of the US special services,” adding that if Russian special services had wanted to kill him they would have “finished it.”
Putin’s comments came in response to a question at his annual press conference following an investigation by the investigative group Bellingcat and CNN, published Monday, which uncovered evidence that Russia’s Federal Security Service (the FSB) formed an elite team specializing in nerve agents that trailed Navalny for years.
Navalny was poisoned with the toxin Novichok in August and nearly died. After initial treatment in Omsk, Siberia, he was taken to a clinic in Berlin. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied any involvement in his poisoning.
In his first comments on the investigation, Putin didn’t dispute any details of the findings but essentially confirmed that FSB agents did indeed trail Navalny.
Putin claimed without evidence that Navalny – whom he referred to as “this patient in the Berlin clinic” – is being supported by US intelligence services, adding, “if that’s correct, then that’s interesting, then of course [our] special services need to keep an eye on him.”
“But that doesn’t mean he needs to be poisoned, who needs him anyway? If [they] wanted to, they would’ve probably finished it,” Putin added. “But in this case, his wife asked me, and I immediately gave the order to let him out of the country to be treated in Germany… This is a trick to attack the leaders [in Russia].”
In CNN’s report published Monday, experts in toxicology said Novichok could take up to 12 hours to affect the nervous system, depending on the dosage and how it’s administered. Short of injecting exactly the right dose into someone, it is almost impossible for the perpetrator to dose Novichok so as to incapacitate rather than kill.
Putin described reports about Navalny – to whom he did not at any point refer by name – as “implanted stories.”
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