Russia’s Navalny Says Would-Be Killer Confessed to Poison Plot

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, who is recovering from a near-fatal poisoning that he blames on President Vladimir Putin, said he tricked one of his would-be assassins into confessing to the attempt on his life.

Navalny, posing as an adviser to Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, recorded a conversation with what he said was one of the Federal Security Service (FSB) agents he has accused of organizing the poisoning.

The 45-minute conversation posted on YouTube is the latest twist in the case after a report by the investigative website Bellingcat last week alleged that a clandestine FSB unit specializing in poisons had followed Navalny since January 2017.

Putin denied the government was behind the poisoning last week during his annual press conference, saying that if the authorities had wanted to kill Navalny they would have succeeded. The Russian leader said Navalny was under surveillance and called the Bellingcat report evidence that the anti-Kremlin activist was cooperating with U.S. spy services.

Navalny says he was poisoned while campaigning in Siberia in August by what European laboratories later identified as Novichok, a weapons-grade nerve agent developed in Russia. He fell ill during a flight back to Moscow, prompting pilots of the plane to make an emergency landing in the city of Omsk so that he could be given medical treatment.

The alleged FSB agent in the conversation said the attack might have ended differently had the plane not landed or if it hadn’t been for the prompt work by emergency medics on the scene.

Navalny said he called other members of the alleged FSB team but they appeared not to have taken the bait. The one who did talk said he’d been involved in cleaning up after the operation, rather than the poisoning itself.

Navalny is currently recovering in Germany, which has supported his claim that the Kremlin was behind the attack. The European Union in October sanctioned six senior Russian officials over the use of the banned poison suspected in the poisoning. The Kremlin has denied Russia was responsible.

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