President Vladimir Putin on Thursday rejected reports that Russia’s security services were behind the poisoning of Alexei Navalny, saying that if they were, the opposition leader would not be alive.
Navalny, 44, fell violently ill during a flight from Siberia to Moscow in August and was hospitalised in the Russian city of Omsk before being transported to Berlin by medical aircraft.
Experts of several Western countries concluded that the Kremlin critic was poisoned with the Soviet-era Novichok nerve agent — a claim that Moscow has repeatedly denied.
A joint media report this week revealed what it said were the names and photos of chemical weapons experts from Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) that had tailed Navalny for years.
Speaking to reporters at his annual end-of-year press conference Putin described the report as “the legalisation of materials from the American special services”, adding that the Kremlin critic “has their support”.
The Russian leader said that if Navalny was supported by US special services, then Russia should of course tail him.
“But this does not at all mean that it is necessary to poison him. Who needs him?” Putin said.
If the Russian special services had wanted to poison Navalny, “they would have taken it to the end,” he said.