Navalny Says Russian Agent Confessed to Plot to Poison Him

MOSCOW — Aleksei A. Navalny, the Russian opposition chief recovering from a nerve agent assault, has made a profession of needling his nation’s sprawling safety institution.

On Monday, he produced maybe his most brazen transfer but: a video which he said shows him phoning a Russian intelligence officer and tricking him into confessing to a plot to kill Mr. Navalny by planting poison on his underpants.

“The precedence was most secrecy,” the person could be heard telling Mr. Navalny over the cellphone. “In order that nobody might document it, nobody noticed something they didn’t have to see, and so forth.”

Mr. Navalny and Bellingcat, the open-source investigative outlet that revealed a report on Monday alongside the video, recognized the person as Konstantin Kudryavtsev, a chemical weapons specialist at Russia’s home intelligence company, the Federal Safety Service, or F.S.B.

There was no impartial affirmation that Mr. Navalny had certainly spoken to Mr. Kudryavtsev. The F.S.B., in a statement, known as Mr. Navalny’s video a forgery, in response to the RIA Novosti state information company. His investigation was a “deliberate provocation geared toward discrediting the F.S.B.,” the assertion stated, “which couldn’t have been carried out with out the organizational and technical assist of worldwide intelligence businesses.”

Nonetheless, Mr. Navalny’s video of a purported 49-minute name along with his personal would-be murderer inside certainly one of Russia’s most secretive and highly effective intelligence businesses jolted the Russian web, drawing greater than seven million views on YouTube inside hours. It was the most recent episode to puncture the aura of energy and professionalism of Russia’s spy companies, a marked distinction to the information of a large-scale cyber intrusion in the US attributed to Russian hackers.

And it put the Kremlin on the defensive but once more over Mr. Navalny’s poisoning, an occasion rising as a pivotal second for President Vladimir V. Putin as he enters his 22nd 12 months in energy.

Final week, Bellingcat published an investigation with a Russian information outlet, The Insider, that used leaked cellphone data to point out that F.S.B. officers with experience in poisons had trailed Mr. Navalny for years and have been close by on the time he was uncovered to the military-grade nerve agent that just about killed him in Siberia final summer season.

In response, Mr. Putin denied that he was behind the near-deadly poisoning of his most outstanding political opponent, telling journalists with a laugh that if Russian brokers had needed to kill Mr. Navalny, “they might have in all probability completed the job.”

The F.S.B., a successor company to the Ok.G.B. that Mr. Putin ran earlier than turning into president, has turn into a dominant behind-the-scenes power in Russian politics and enterprise. The decision Mr. Navalny launched Monday added to the trove of proof suggesting that the company had organized — and botched — an assassination try towards the nation’s most outstanding opposition politician.

Based on final week’s Bellingcat report, three F.S.B. officers adopted Mr. Navalny to Siberia in August the place he was assembly with supporters in preparation for native elections. They trailed him to the Siberian metropolis of Tomsk the place, simply after midnight on Aug. 20, phone metadata confirmed one of many operatives close to the resort the place Mr. Navalny and his group have been staying, the report stated.

Hours later, shortly after taking off on a flight from Tomsk to Moscow, Mr. Navalny was heard screaming within the airplane toilet earlier than collapsing. The pilot made an emergency touchdown in Omsk, one other Siberian metropolis. By the point Mr. Navalny arrived at a hospital there, he was in a coma.

Days later, one other F.S.B. officer — Mr. Kudryavtsev — flew to Omsk from Moscow and stayed there for simply 10 hours, in response to Bellingcat.

Mr. Navalny known as the person he stated was Mr. Kudryavtsev final Monday, hours earlier than he and Bellingcat launched the investigation figuring out Mr. Kudryavtsev and 7 different members of the F.S.B. group that reportedly tried to poison Mr. Navalny.

Mr. Navalny used caller-I.D.-spoofing software program to make it look as if he have been calling from an F.S.B. landline, and launched himself as an aide to a senior Russian safety official making ready an pressing report on what went incorrect within the mission.

Mr. Navalny first equally tried to trick one other F.S.B. officer on the group, who responded, “I do know precisely who you might be,” and hung up, in response to Bellingcat. However Mr. Kudryavtsev apparently took the bait.

Beneath questioning from Mr. Navalny, who pretends to be a no-nonsense official dashing to satisfy a deadline, the person recognized as Mr. Kudryavtsev acknowledges that the mission’s goal was to kill Mr. Navalny. He says that Mr. Navalny was saved by the business airline pilot who made an emergency touchdown and by the ambulance staff who handled Mr. Navalny on the tarmac in Omsk.

“So that you consider that this particular person of curiosity survived solely as a result of they landed the airplane too quickly?” Mr. Navalny asks on the video.

“I consider so, sure,” the person recognized as Mr. Kudryavtsev responds, heard on speakerphone within the video. “If it had taken just a bit bit longer then, presumably, the whole lot would have ended in another way. You see, that is the place coincidence is the worst issue we are able to have in our work.”

Mr. Kudryavtsev didn’t plant the poison himself, however in response to the cellphone name was charged with serving to take away its traces from Mr. Navalny’s clothes. The person recognized as Mr. Kudryavtsev tells Mr. Navalny within the name that he twice flew to Omsk to retrieve Mr. Navalny’s garments from the native authorities in order that they might be handled to take away any hint of poison.

German army scientists decided in September that Mr. Navalny had been poisoned with one of many Russian-made Novichok household of nerve brokers. Within the video launched Monday, Mr. Navalny coaxes out a brand new element: that the poison was planted on the within of Mr. Navalny’s blue underpants.

“On the groin space of the underpants?” Mr. Navalny asks.

“Effectively, the so-called codpiece,” the person responds. “There are seams there, it was alongside the seams.”

Mr. Navalny stays in Germany, the place he was flown for therapy after the August assault, however final week he renewed his vow to return to Russia as soon as he recovers.

Late Monday, a high ally of Mr. Navalny, Lyubov Sobol, tried to go to Mr. Kudryavtsev at his house in Moscow. She was detained by the police and confronted unspecified felony costs, Mr. Navalny said on Twitter.

The Kremlin has lengthy tried to reduce Mr. Navalny’s significance, whereas insisting he’s backed by American intelligence businesses; Russian officers keep away from mentioning his identify in public. Final week, Mr. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, said he would not touch upon “the affected person.”

However Monday’s video was positive to resume questions on Mr. Navalny, whereas undermining the picture of the F.S.B. as one of many world’s premier spy businesses.

“I’m sorry, I’ve a query,” the person recognized as Mr. Kudryavtsev says on the finish of the cellphone name with Mr. Navalny. “Is it OK that we talked on a standard cellphone line?”

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