Navalny: I Tricked Russian Agent Into Spilling the Beans

Anti-Putin activist impersonated FSB official, talked to agent who allegedly poisoned him
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 21, 2020 1:31 PM CST
Navalny Was Allegedly Poisoned via His Underwear
A 2019 photo of Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny.   (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, File)

Russian activist Alexei Navalny says he engaged in a little clandestine operation of his own and duped a government agent into spilling details about how he ended up poisoned. The BBC reports that Navalny posed as an official with Russia's FSB—formerly known as the KGB—and spoke to an agent named Konstantin Kudryavtsev by telephone. Navalny pretended to demand information about the mission, and one detail in particular is making headlines. Kudryavtsev reportedly told Navalny that poison was placed on the inside of Navalny's underpants. "The crotch, as they call it," Kudryavtsev says, according to a transcript of the call at the Guardian. "There is some sort of seams there, by the seams." That makes sense, CNN explains, because the poison would have been absorbed through the skin as Navalny sweated.

In this case, it was likely applied in granular form, as opposed to a liquid or gel, toxicologists tell CNN. The phone call follows a joint investigation by CNN and the investigative group Bellingcat that came out last week, alleging that a team of Russian agents shadowed Navalny on numerous trips before finally dosing him with the nerve agent Novichok. So why did the mission fail to kill its victim? Navalny says he asked the agent that very question. The agent is quoted as saying that quick action by a pilot to divert a plane out of Moscow to the city of Omsk was the first key step. Otherwise, Navalny would have been in the air three hours. "If you don't land the plane, the effect would've been different and the result would've been different," the agent is quoted as saying. "So I think the plane played the decisive part." (Read more Alexei Navalny stories.)

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