Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is recovering in Germany after being poisoned in Russia by a nerve agent, has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of being behind the attack.
Navalny, a politician and corruption investigator who is Putin’s fiercest critic, was flown to Germany two days after falling ill on August 20 on a domestic flight in Russia.
The West has demanded an explanation from the Kremlin, which has denied any involvement in the incident and said it has yet to see evidence of a crime.
His supporters initially believed his tea had been spiked at Tomsk airport but traces of the nerve agent were later found on water bottles where he stayed the previous night.
In his first interview since he fell ill, Navalny said the order to use Novichok could only have come from the heads of three of Russia’s intelligence services, all of whom work under Vladimir Putin.
“I assert that Putin is behind this act, I don’t see any other explanation,” Navalny told German news magazine Der Spiegel.
“You don’t feel any pain but you know you’re dying,” he said of the moment that the nerve agent began to take effect on him.
Responding to Navalny’s claim, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Navalny’s accusations against the Russian president are groundless and unacceptable.
“Some of these statements in the mentioned publication we consider offensive and also unacceptable. Completely different people and other forces are the real political rivals of the President,” Peskov said.
The Kremlin later accused Navalny of colluding with US intelligence officers.
“Specialists from the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States are working with him these days,” spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said.
“It’s not the first time when they had given him instructions. Instructors are working, the reception of instructions by the patient are obvious. We have seen such lines of behaviour more than once.”