Person of the Week: Aleksei Navalny publishes phone conversation with alleged participant in assassination attempt

Week-ending 25 December 2020

On 21 December Aleksei Navalny, currently living in Germany after the attempt to assassinate him with Novichok, published a recording of a telephone call he claims was with an FSB operative, Konstantin Kudryavtsev, who allegedly took part in the August attempt on his life.


The Moscow Times, 20 December 2020: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday hailed the country’s “courageous” spies as he visited the headquarters of the Foreign Intelligence Service to mark its 100th birthday. Putin, who has spent most of the coronavirus epidemic at his residences outside the Russian capital and on the Black Sea, visited the SVR headquarters in southern Moscow amid the controversy surrounding the work of the country’s security services. SVR, Russia’s external intelligence agency, which succeeded the First Chief Directorate of the KGB in 1991, marks its centenary on Sunday. But December 20 is also the day in Russia when the country fetes all members of the security services including those from the FSB domestic intelligence agency. Speaking outside the SVR headquarters, Putin, himself a former KGB officer, thanked all those who protect Russia from “external and internal threats” and called them “reliable and courageous people.”

The Guardian, 21 December 2020: On Monday Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny published a telephone call he had with FSB operative Konstantin Kudryavtsev, who was allegedly part of the FSB team, which in August poisoned Navalny when he travelled to Siberia. Navalny survived after the plane he fell sick on was diverted to a nearby airport and he received quick medical attention. He rang Kudryavtsev from Germany last week, pretending to be an aide to a top FSB official.

The Guardian, 21 December 2020: One of the operatives allegedly involved in the attempt to kill Alexei Navalny has confessed to his role in the plot, and has revealed that the Russian opposition leader was apparently poisoned via his underwear. Navalny phoned two members of the team from Russia’s FSB spy agency, which allegedly tried to murder him. One recognised him immediately and hung up. The second operative, Konstantin Kudryavtsev, was seemingly duped into thinking he was talking to an aide working for a top FSB general. The call was made hours before the investigative website Bellingcat published details last week of the eight FSB officers who allegedly poisoned Navalny. Navalny survived the attempt to kill him in August and is recuperating in Germany.

Meduza, 22 December 2020: Over the past two months, a team of reporters and researchers from multiple countries managed to identify several of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) agents who tracked and possibly tried on several occasions to murder opposition figure Alexey Navalny. The investigation was a success because the officers committed a series of basic errors when using their cell phones and mobile Internet connections while in the field. The apparent bumbling at the heart of the story has raised questions about the professionalism of Russia’s top intelligence agency. For insights into this matter and for answers to other burning questions about the FSB, Meduza turns to journalist Andrei Soldatov, who together with Irina Borogan has written several books about the Russian intelligence community’s operations at home and abroad, including “The New Nobility,” “The Red Web,” and “The Compatriots.”

The Guardian, 24 December 2020: The Berlin doctors who treated Alexei Navalny have published clinical details of his novichok poisoning, in what the Russian opposition leader called the medical proof repeatedly denied by President Vladimir Putin. In an article in The Lancet medical journal, doctors at Berlin’s Charite hospital detail the symptoms observed as Navalny was admitted into their care in August. They provide information on his physical responses as infusions, treatments, CT scans and MRIs were carried out. “Ascertaining the involvement of a novichok agent and its biotransformation products in this case was only achieved several days after establishing the diagnosis of cholinesterase inhibitor poisoning and did not affect therapeutic decision,” they write.

Caucasian Knot, 25 December 2020: Journalist Anna Politkovskaya survived a poisoning during her trip to Beslan, and two years later she was shot dead. Versions about poisoning were also put forward after the deaths of Kabardino-Balkarian human rights defender Timur Kuashev and Dagestani activist Mukhamed Gamzatov. The “Caucasian Knot” has reported that in August, opposition leader Alexei Navalny fell into a coma after being poisoned at the Omsk airport. He regained consciousness in Berlin, where he was taken for medical treatment. Alexei Navalny claimed that the Russian authorities initiated an attempt on his life. Authors of the journalistic investigation came to the conclusion that the oppositionist was poisoned by a group of Russian law enforcers. Earlier, Yaroslav Savin, a member of the political council of the “Parnas” Party branch, noted the connection between the oppositionist’s poisoning and other similar cases. “This is not the first attempt. As you know, the secret services use poisons. They tried to poison both Anna Politkovskaya and [journalist] Vladimir Kara-Murza,” Yaroslav Savin told the “Caucasian Knot” correspondent. The Alexei Navalny’s case also reminded of the incident with Timur Kuashev, a Kabardino-Balkarian journalist and human rights defender, which ended more tragically. The journalist disappeared in the evening on July 31, 2014. On the other day, his body was found in a suburb of Nalchik. A sign of the injection was found on the journalist’s body, but investigators claimed that the 26-year-old journalist had died not from poisoning, but from acute coronary insufficiency.

Caucasian Knot, 25 December 2020: The law enforcers, whom the authors of the investigative journalism believe to be involved in the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, had flown to Grozny and Vladikavkaz and could carry out special missions there, Hristo Grozev, a Bellingcat journalist and the author of the investigation into the attempt on Navalny, has suggested in his interview with the Meduza. The “Caucasian Knot” has reported that in August, Alexei Navalny, an opposition leader, fell into a coma after being poisoned at the Omsk airport. On September 7, Navalny, taken out for treatment at the “Charite” Berlin-based clinic, was driven out of an artificial coma; and his health condition improved. Navalny said that the Russian authorities were behind the attempt on his life. The law enforcers, who, according to the journalistic investigation, poisoned Alexei Navalny, may be involved in other poisonings and special missions, including in Northern Caucasus, Hristo Grozev, a journalist from Bulgaria, one of the authors of the investigation, has suggested. “Now, we’ll analyze other trips of this group and compare them with other unknown and known poisonings <…>. There is a lot of work to be done. It is impossible that such a staff with such experts existed only because of Navalny alone. And their other flights to Vladikavkaz and Grozny show that there were other targets,” Mr Grozev said in an interview published by the Meduza.

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