Leading Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny said Monday that he tricked one of the several security officers linked to his poisoning into outlining the details of the operation in a phone call.
A media investigation said last week that Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) chemical weapons experts shadowed Navalny on dozens of his trips since 2017, including on the day he was poisoned in August 2020. It identified Konstantin Kudryavtsev as one of the suspected agents from the FSB’s Criminalistics Institute, also known as its poisons factory.
Scientists from Germany, France, Sweden and the global chemical-weapons body have established that Navalny was exposed to the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok when he fell into a coma on Aug. 20.
A man identified as Kudryavtsev outlined key details of the poisoning in a 49-minute phone call with Navalny, who disguised the call as coming from the FSB headquarters and posed as a senior Russian Security Council official.
“What item of clothing was the emphasis on? What is the most risky piece of clothing?” Navalny, using an alias, asked Kudryavtsev as Bellingcat journalists involved in the joint media investigation listened nearby.
“The underpants,” Kudryavtsev replied, specifying that the nerve agent was applied on “the insides, the crotch” area.
Navalny has demanded Russian authorities to return his clothes that were confiscated before his evacuation from Siberia to Germany as key pieces of evidence. Russian police said last month that no poisonous substances were found on Navalny’s clothes nor other items collected from places he had visited before boarding the Tomsk-Moscow flight where he fell violently ill.
Kudryavtsev, who was initially reluctant to divulge details on the call because he said he had signed a non-disclosure agreement, attributed Navalny’s survival to pilots rerouting his flight and Siberian doctors administering an antidote “almost immediately.”
“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,” he said, according to CNN’s translation.
“[We] didn't expect all this would happen. I'm sure that everything went wrong.”
The FSB later Monday called the video a “provocation” that “would not have been possible without the organizational and technical support of foreign special services.”
Commenting on the Navalny poisoning during his annual press conference last week, President Vladimir Putin confirmed that Russia's security services tailed the opposition leader, remarking that “if someone wanted to poison him, they probably would have finished the job.”