A Three-Member Kremlin Hit Squad Poisoned Alexei Navalny it is Alleged

Published December 16th, 2020 - 10:18 GMT
 In this file photo taken on February 29, 2020 Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, his wife Yulia, opposition politician Lyubov Sobol and other demonstrators take part in a march in memory of murdered Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov in downtown Moscow on February 29, 2020. Navalny, 44, was hospitalised in the Russian city of Omsk after he collapsed on a flight from Siberia to Moscow in August 2020 and then transported by medical aircraft to Berlin. Chemical weapons experts from Russia's Federal Security
In this file photo taken on February 29, 2020 Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, his wife Yulia, opposition politician Lyubov Sobol and other demonstrators take part in a march in memory of murdered Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov in downtown Moscow on February 29, 2020. Navalny, 44, was hospitalised in the Russian city of Omsk after he collapsed on a flight from Siberia to Moscow in August 2020 and then transported by medical aircraft to Berlin. Chemical weapons experts from Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) tailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny for several years, including on the day of his poisoning, according to a joint media investigation. The investigative website Bellingcat -- together with the US network CNN, Russia's The Insider and Germany's Der Spiegel -- published on December 14, 2020 a joint report revealing the names and photos of men who they say specialise in nerve agents and toxins, such as Novichok. Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP
Highlights
Its undercover teams included chemical weapons experts, doctors and secret agents with expertise in special operations, according to the investigative website Bellingcat.

Three members of a Kremlin hit squad alleged to have poisoned Russian politician Alexei Navalny were unmasked last night.

They are said to have trailed the outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin for three years before launching an assassination attempt in August using the nerve agent novichok.

Moscow's FSB agency – the successor to the KGB – allegedly began tracking Mr Navalny after he announced plans to run against the Russian president.

Its undercover teams included chemical weapons experts, doctors and secret agents with expertise in special operations, according to the investigative website Bellingcat.

Agents were said to have kept Mr Navalny under surveillance on at least 37 trips before he was eventually poisoned on a flight from Siberia to Moscow in August.

They would take parallel flights or trains, travelling in twos or threes, mixing up teams to avoid being spotted and often using aliases, the report claimed.

The chain of command leads to the top of the FSB and ultimately to Mr Putin.

Mr Navalny, 44, leader of the opposition Progress Party, fell ill after he was exposed to the same nerve agent used against former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, Wiltshire, in 2018.

Last night Mr Navalny said: 'Case closed. I know who tried to kill me. I know where they live. I know where they work. I know their real names. I know their fake names. I have their photos.'

The anti-corruption activist and father-of-two said he believed Mr Putin ordered the operation after he announced he would run for the Russian presidency, adding: 'We now have the villain, the reason, murderers and the murder weapon.'

The Kremlin has denied Mr Putin's involvement and suggested Mr Navalny is working with the CIA in the US.

Bellingcat named three FSB officers who trailed the lawyer as he travelled from Moscow to Siberia in August, and a further five agents said to have been involved in the operation.

They included Alexey Alexandrov, 39, a military doctor; Ivan Osipov, also a medical doctor by training; and Vladimir Panyaev, who posed as a lamp salesman and lived in Mr Navalny's building until the poisoning, when his registered address suddenly changed to that of the FSB headquarters.

Panyaev, 40, actually works in the FSB's Criminalistics Institute, also known as its poisons factory, Bellingcat reported. The website, which worked with CNN in the US, Der Spiegel in Germany and The Insider in Russia, said it used telecoms records and travel data, including flight manifests, to track the agents' movements. 

The same team may have made an earlier assassination bid in July, when Mr Navalny's wife Yulia fell ill on a trip with him to Kaliningrad.

Mr Navalny said he could have been poisoned by a cocktail in his hotel bar in the Siberian city of Tomsk the night before his flight back to Moscow. He asked for a Bloody Mary but was told the bar did not have the ingredients and accepted a negroni instead.

He said the drink was 'disgusting' and he took only a few sips before going to bed. Experts have said the novichok could also have been on laundry he did at the hotel, or injected into his toiletries.

Mr Navalny boarded the plane to Moscow the next day but collapsed on board and was taken for hospital treatment in Omsk after an emergency landing.

Bellingcat claimed some of the hit squad followed him to Omsk, and there have been reports of a second attempt on his life there.

He was then flown to Germany, where doctors confirmed he was poisoned with novichok and nursed him back to health. 

This article has been adapted from its original source.


© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

You may also like