Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday denied poisoning Alexei Navalny, stating that Russia would’ve “finished the job.”
Navalny nearly died after being poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok in late August. He fell ill on a flight from Siberia to Moscow.
Putin also suggested that Navalny, his most prominent critic, is connected to “American intelligence.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday suggested that his most prominent critic, Alexei Navalny, has ties to US intelligence. Putin also denied poisoning Navalny, stating that Russia would’ve “finished the job.”
Navalny, an opposition leader who has been harassed by the Russian government for years, in late August was poisoned with the potentially-fatal nerve agent Novichok and fell ill while en route from Siberia to Moscow. He was eventually transferred to Berlin for treatment, and he remains in Germany. The Kremlin has maintained that it had no involvement, though Novichok has been used to poison other Russian dissidents.
“This patient in the Berlin clinic has the support of American intelligence agencies,” Putin said during his annual news conference, according to a translation from the New York Times. “The intelligence agencies of course need to keep an eye on him. But that does not mean that he needs to be poisoned – who needs him? If they had really wanted to, they would have probably finished the job.”
Putin was responding to questions on a Bellingcat investigation published this week that showed an elite Russian unit that specializes in nerve agents had been tracking Navalny for years.
The Russian leader claimed US intelligence was behind the investigation.
“This is not an investigation, this is the legalization of material from American intelligence agencies,” Putin said. “What, do we not know that they track location? Our intelligence agencies understand that well.”
In a tweet earlier this week, Navalny directly accused Putin of poisoning him.
“A special team of FSB killers spied on me for more than 3 years and tried several murder attempts. An operation of such scale couldn’t be authorized by anyone other than Putin. I accuse him of national terrorism,” the anti-corruption campaigner said.
Responding to the Russian president’s news conference, Navalny in a separate tweet on Thursday said, “Putin admitted everything,” adding, “it is impossible to deny our reinforced concrete evidence.”
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