Alexei Navalny: Putin critic says Russian agent ‘confessed’ to poisoning him in trick phone call
A Russian FSB agent has been tricked into allegedly admitting he poisoned Putin critic Alexei Navalny by unwittingly telling Mr Navalny himself on a phone call, according to reports.
The officer, identified as Konstantin Kudryavtsev, is said to have taken a 45-minute call from Mr Navalny last Monday, but was duped into believing he was actually talking to a senior security official instead.
He explained to the Russian opposition leader that Novichok nerve agent used to poison him had been applied to his underwear, with a specific focus on “the insides, the crotch”.
“I was told to work precisely with the underpants, on the inside,” he said.
The details of the call were released on Monday as part of an investigation by Mr Navalny, Bellingcat and CNN into the near-fatal incident earlier this year.
In August, the 44-year-old fell critically ill while on a flight to Moscow from the Siberian city of Tomsk, forcing the plane to make an emergency diversion to Omsk.
Mr Navalny was then transferred to a hospital in Germany, where it was eventually confirmed that he had been poisoned with the same substance used against former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter.
Russia, meanwhile, has repeatedly denied any involvement in the plot.
President Vladimir Putin said last week that had someone wanted to kill Mr Navalny, they would have “finished the job”.
He later said of the online investigation: ” [It is] a dump where everything is being dumped, dumped, dumped in hopes that it will make an impression on the citizens, instil mistrust towards political leadership.”
According to Mr Kudryavtsev, who has worked at the biological security research centre at Russia’s Ministry of Defence, it was the quick reaction of the pilot that played a “decisive part” in Mr Navalny’s survival.
“The flight is about three hours, this is a long flight,” he said.
“If you don’t land the plane the effect would’ve been different and the result would’ve been different. So I think the plane played the decisive part.
“[We] didn’t expect all this would happen. I’m sure that everything went wrong.”
When asked about whether a miscalculated Novichok dosage could also have affected the outcome, he said: “As I understand it, we added [a] bit extra.”
Online investigators have previously identified Mr Kudryavtsev’s role as one of six in a Russian intelligence team specialising in toxins and nerve agents – and part of a wider operation that has trailed Mr Navalny since 2017.
On the call, Mr Kudryavtsev said he had flown to Omsk days after the poisoning to take part in the clean-up, and had applied solutions to Mr Navalny’s clothes to get rid of any trace.
“That’s why we went there several times,” he said.
Speaking to CNN on Monday, Mr Navalny said he thought it was “so obvious” that Mr Putin was behind the plot and was “amazed” at his conversation with Mr Kudryavtsev.
“Simultaneously because of my luck and the way he so routinely says phrases like ‘the job was done well’,” he said.
“He clearly does not consider himself a member of an assassination team, just an ordinary employee.”
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