This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Russian President Vladimir Putin says he personally intervened to ensure that Aleksei Navalny could be evacuated to Germany for treatment after the opposition politician was poisoned with a Soviet-style chemical agent in August.
Speaking in a televised appearance on October 22, Putin also said that if the Russian authorities had wanted Navalny dead, Moscow would not have allowed him to be flown to Berlin, where the 44-year-old is recovering from the poisoning that nearly took his life.
Navalny, a fierce Putin critic and prominent anti-corruption campaigner, has blamed the poisoning on the Russian president — an allegation the Kremlin has firmly rejected.
Russian authorities have also resisted international pressure to launch a criminal investigation and accused Western leaders of launching a disinformation campaign over Navalny’s illness.
Addressing a meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club in Moscow, Putin said that said he had asked Russian prosecutors to authorize Navalny to leave the country after an appeal from his wife.
“There were travel restrictions against him related to a judicial investigation and a criminal case” against Navalny, he said. “But I nonetheless asked the Prosecutor-General’s Office to allow it and he left.”
The Russian leader also said that if “this particular person was wanted dead — at least by the authorities — it’d be unlikely that they’d have sent him to Germany for treatment.”
Navalny fell violently ill on a commercial flight from Siberia to Moscow on August 20.
The airliner made an emergency landing in the Siberian city of Omsk, where Navalny was hospitalized before Russian authorities permitted him to be airlifted to Berlin for treatment.
He was released from the Charite hospital on September 22 after spending 32 days in the clinic.
Last week, the European Union and Britain imposed asset freezes and travel bans against six senior Russian officials believed to be responsible for the “attempted assassination” of Navalny, as well as one entity involved in the program that has produced a group of military-grade nerve agents known as Novichok.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) earlier this month confirmed the findings of specialized laboratories in Germany, France, and Sweden that Navalny was poisoned with a substance of the Novichok group.
Novichok was identified by British authorities as the toxin used in the near-fatal poisoning of Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in 2018 in the English city of Salisbury.