Russian opposition politician and government critic Alexei Navalny is publicly blaming Russian President Vladimir Putin for the poisoning attack that nearly cost him his life.
“I assert that Putin was behind the crime, and I have no other explanation for what happened. I’m not saying this out of self-flattery, but based on the facts. The most important fact is [the poison] Novichok. The order to use or produce it can only come from two men – the head of the [Federal Security Service] FSB or the head of SWR, the foreign intelligence service,” Navalny explained in an interview with Der Spiegel on Wednesday.
Navalny added that the FSB, SWR, or Russian military intelligence agency GRU “cannot make a decision like that without being instructed by Putin.” He noted that chemical weapons are “considered the domain of the intelligence services.”
Navalny fell ill around Aug. 20, during a flight from Siberia to Moscow, which was forced to make an emergency landing. Navalny was taken to an intensive care unit in Omsk in a comatose state, and was later evacuated to Berlin, Germany. Early tests determined he was poisoned with cholinesterase inhibitors, and later lab results concluded the cholinesterase inhibitor poisoning was consistent with Novichok nerve agent.
Medical professionals in Omsk had initially denied any evidence of poisoning, and Navalny said he believes the government officials were waiting on him to die.
“I think they were determined not to let me leave the country, so they declared publicly that I was not fit to be transported. They were waiting for me to die,” Navalny said.
“If I had died in Omsk or suffered permanent harm there, it clearly would have been their responsibility. It might not have been possible to prove the use of Novichok in that case, but it clearly would have been their fault that I was not allowed to leave the country. Besides, they did wait 48 hours, likely hoping that the poison could no longer be proven after that,” he added.
Last month, the German government said there was “unequivocal evidence,” that Navalny, 44, was in fact poisoned by a nerve agent belonging to the Novichok group of nerve agents.
Navalny spent several weeks in an induced coma before recovering from the poisoning.
“If someone had told me a month and a half ago that I would be poisoned with Novichok, I would have laughed at them. After all, we know how Putin fights the opposition. We have 20 years of experience. You can be arrested, beaten up, sprayed with disinfectants or shot on a bridge like Boris Nemtsov,” Navalny told Der Spiegel.
Navalny has been at the center of the Kremlin’s ire in the past for his outspokenness of government corruption, and has even been barred for running for president or Moscow mayor. He has been jailed numerous times, and during one 30-day sentence in July 2019, he fell ill and was hospitalized with severe swelling to his face, for which he later claimed he was poisoned. He was also splashed with an antiseptic dye in 2017, causing chemical burns to his eye.