Accusations that the Kremlin was behind the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny have been denied by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
On Thursday, via video call, he accused U.S. intelligence agencies of encouraging the allegations.
The Russian leader countered the accusations by arguing that if the Kremlin intended Mr. Navalny to be poisoned, the attack would have driven him home.
He added with a smirk, “If there was such a wish, it would have been done.”
Mr. Navalny fell ill on a domestic flight to Russia on Aug. 20 and was flown to Germany in a coma for treatment two days later.
Laboratories in Germany, France and Sweden, as well as tests by the Chemical Weapons Prohibition Organisation, found that a Soviet-era nerve agent, Novichok, had been exposed to the Russian opposition leader.
The Kremlin has repeatedly been charged with poisoning by Mr. Navalny and his associates, accusations officials have denied.
On Monday, the Bellingcat investigative group and the Russian outlet The Insider published a report alleging that during his travels since 2017, agents from the FSB, Russia’s internal security agency, which is a top KGB successor, had tracked Mr. Navalny.
“specialized training in chemical weapons, chemistry and medicine”specialized training in chemical weapons, chemistry and medicine”were near the opposition activist in the days and hours of the time period in which he was poisoned.”were next to the opposition activist in the days and hours during which he was poisoned.
In the investigation, carried out in collaboration with CNN and Der Spiegel, alleged FSB agents and poison laboratories were found after examining telephone metadata and flight records.
In 2019 and 2020, it listed two cases in which Mr. Navalny or his wife Yulia had unexplained symptoms.
Mr. Navalny said the report shows beyond doubt that, under Mr. Putin’s orders, FSB agents attempted to kill him.
Mr. Putin charged that the latest study is based on data from U.S. spy agencies in his first comments since the report’s publication, while its authors have denied any connection to U.S. or other Western intelligence agencies.
“It is not an investigation, but only the legalization of materials provided by U.S. special services,” he said, adding that this indicated that Mr. Navalny “relied on the support of U.S. special services.”
“It is strange, and in this case the special services actually have to keep an eye on him,” Mr. Putin said.
“But that doesn’t mean there is a need to poison him, who would need that?”
He suggested that Mr. Navalny had directed the Kremlin to poison him as a top opposition figure to increase his political profile.
“Any reasonable person would see such an approach as flawed,” Mr. Putin said.