Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, January 21st, 2021

Putin denies involvement in poisoning of Kremlin foe Navalny

Putin denies involvement in poisoning of Kremlin foe Navalny

MOSCOW- Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday rejected allegations that the Kremlin was behind the poisoning of his top political foe, opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and accused U.S. intelligence agencies of fomenting the claims even as he held out hope for better ties with Washington.
Putin also voiced hope that the administration of President-elect Joe Biden would move to extend the last remaining U.S.-Russian arms control pact that is set to expire in early February.
Speaking via video hookup during his annual marathon news conference that lasted 4 1/2 hours, the Russian leader countered the accusations by saying that if the Kremlin wanted to poison Navalny, it would have succeeded.
“If there was such a desire, it would have been done,” Putin said with a chuckle.
Navalny fell sick on Aug. 20 during a domestic flight in Russia and was flown while still in a coma to Berlin for treatment two days later. Labs in Germany, France and Sweden, and tests by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, established that he was exposed to a Soviet-era Novichok nerve agent.
Russian authorities have vehemently denied any involvement in the poisoning.
On Monday, the investigative group Bellingcat and Russian outlet The Insider released a report alleging that operatives from the FSB, Russia’s domestic security agency, which is a top KGB successor, followed Navalny during his trips since 2017, had “specialized training in chemical weapons, chemistry and medicine,” and ”were in the vicinity of the opposition activist in the days and hours of the time-range during which he was poisoned.”
The investigation, done also in cooperation with CNN and Der Spiegel, identified the supposed FSB operatives and laboratories working on poisons like Novichok after analyzing telephone metadata and flight information. It mentioned two instances in 2019 and 2020, in which Navalny or his wife Yulia suffered from unexplained symptoms.
Navalny said the investigation has proven beyond doubt that FSB operatives tried to kill him on Putin’s orders.
In his first comment since the report’s publication, Putin charged that it relied on data provided by U.S. spy agencies. Its authors have denied any link to U.S. or any other Western intelligence services.
“It’s not some kind of investigation, it’s just the legalization of materials provided by U.S. special services,” he said, adding that it means that Navalny “relies on the support of U.S. special services.” (AP)