Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has accused President Vladimir Putin of being behind his poisoning in his first interview, published since he left the German hospital where he was treated.
“I claim that Putin is behind this act, I see no other explanation,” he told the German weekly Der Spiegel, which published excerpts from the interview on its website on Thursday.
Navalny was evacuated to Berlin for treatment after collapsing on a flight from Tomsk to Moscow in August after campaigning to support opposition candidates in local elections.
The Kremlin critic was sacked a little over a week ago, and his first comments to the press came when European leaders held a summit that might raise the question of an answer to Russia over the Kremlin critic’s case.
Germany, which holds the EU presidency, said toxicology tests showed he was poisoned by Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok.
France and Sweden have independently confirmed Germany’s results.
The government of Chancellor Angela Merkel has also warned Moscow of possible sanctions if it does not investigate the case thoroughly.
As a sign of how seriously she took the case, the German head of state visited Navalny in the Berlin hospital Charite, where he was being treated.
The Kremlin has firmly denied the allegations of involvement, accusing Western leaders of launching a disinformation campaign about the opposition leader’s illness.
Instead, it pointed to tests carried out by Russian doctors who treated Navalny first and did not show any toxic substances.
Navalny was finally released on September 22nd after spending 32 days in the Charite hospital in the German capital, including 24 days in intensive care.
The Kremlin critic has been active on social media since his release from a coma.
Navalny posted a photo of himself on a Berlin bank and said last week on Instagram that he is still far from fully recovered and needs to be rehabilitated.
“The plans are always simple: a physical therapist every day. Possibly a rehabilitation center. Stand on one leg. Take complete control of my fingers. Keep my balance,” he wrote.
In a separate blog post he had also said that the three European laboratories had found Novichok “in and on my body”.
He stated that Russia had not yet opened an investigation but had “expected nothing else”.
The Navalny poisoning has exacerbated tensions between Russia and the West and, in particular, intensified relations with Germany.
Merkel had always insisted on keeping the channels of dialogue with Moscow open, but she has recently sharpened her tone. Navalny’s case came a year after a murder in a central Berlin park ordered by the German public prosecutor’s office, according to Russia.
Navalny aides said German experts found Novichok on a water bottle taken from the hotel room he stayed in before he got sick.
The bottle appears to have been important evidence of Germany’s conclusion that the lawyer and outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin was poisoned with the deadly nerve agent.
Novichok was also used to poison ex-double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England in 2018. He survived.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and posted from a syndicated feed.)