‘Putin was behind the crime’: Navalny speaks out after poisoning

Poisoned Russian opposition leader vows to return to Russia

Alexei-Navalny-Rally-Reuters (File photo) Progress Party opposition leader Alexei Navalny at a rally in February, marking the assassination of politician Boris Nemtsov in 2015 | Reuters

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who recently recovered after being poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok, has unequivocally blamed Russia President Vladimir Putin for the attempt on his life.

“I assert that Putin was behind the crime, and I have no other explanation for what happened,” Navalny told German newspaper Der Spiegel.

Despite this, Navalny said he is adamant about returning to Russia. “My job now is to remain the guy who isn’t afraid. And I’m not afraid! When my hands shake, it’s not from fear—it’s from this stuff. I would not give Putin the gift of not returning to Russia,” he said.

On August 20, Navalny fell unwell while on a flight from Moscow to Tomsk. It was believed that a cup of tea he had at the airport was poisoned, although traces of nerve agent Novichok were also found in his water bottle at the hotel he stayed in. His condition deteriorated and the plane made an emergency landing, after which he was taken to a Siberian hospital. Whilst there, his family sought for him to be shifted to a hospital in Germany—permission for which was initially denied. However, he was eventually shifted to Berlin's Charite hospital, where his poisoning by the nerve agent Novichok was confirmed.

Navalny came out of a coma on September 7 and was gradually weaned off mechanical ventilation. He had spent a total of 32 days in hospital.

Novichok is a well-known and deadly nerve agent, often favoured by the KGB, which had used it before when it was developed as part of the Soviet chemical weapons program. Novichok was also used in the attack on former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, UK in 2018. Skripal and his daughter survived, but a passer-by who came into contact with the nerve agent died.

His poisoning sparked calls in Germany for the country to cancel the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project with Russia, with German Foreign Minister urging Russia to support the investigation into Navalny’s poisoning. Navalny met privately with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on September 28.

The Kremlin denied any involvement in Navalny’s poisoning, the BBC reported. 

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