Poisoned Kremlin critic Navalny told the magazine “Putin was behind the attack”

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Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is recovering in Germany after being poisoned in Russia by a nerve agent, accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of being behind the attack in comments posted Thursday.Supporters of Navalny have frequently argued that such an attack could only have been ordered at the highest level, although the Kremlin has firmly denied any involvement in it.

Navalny, a politician and corruption investigator who is Putin’s fiercest critic, was flown to Germany two days after falling ill on August 20 on a domestic flight to Russia.

He spent 32 days in hospital, including 24 in intensive care, before doctors deemed his condition improved enough for him to be released.

He posted numerous comments online as his recovery progressed, but in his first interview since the attack, he told German magazine Der Spiegel that in his mind, “Putin was behind the attack,” in a German translation of his comments.

“I have no other version of how the crime was committed,” he said in a brief excerpt from the interview conducted in Berlin on Wednesday, which will be published online later Thursday.

Navalny spent 32 days in hospital, including 24 in intensive care, before medics deemed his condition had improved enough for him to be released. (Odd Andersen / AFP / Getty Images)

Navalny spent two days in a coma in a hospital in the Siberian city of Omsk, where Russian doctors said they found no evidence of poisoning, before being transported to Berlin for treatment. German chemical weapons experts determined he had been poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok – findings corroborated by laboratories in France and Sweden.

World leaders call on Russia to investigate

The nerve agent used in the attack was from the same class of poison that Britain claimed was used on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, England in 2018. German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the poisoning an attempted murder, and she and other world leaders demanded that Russia fully investigate the case.

Russia bristled with requests for an investigation, saying Germany should share medical data on the case or compare notes with Russian doctors. Germany noted that Russian doctors have had their own samples of Navalny since he was in their charge for 48 hours.

Germany has also appealed to The Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons for technical assistance. The agency has collected independent samples from Navalny for testing, but the results have yet to be announced.

German doctors said Navalny could make a full recovery, but did not rule out the possibility of long-term damage from the nerve agent.

Spiegel said Navalny joked and was alert during the interview with them, although his hands were shaking so much that it was difficult for him to drink from a water bottle. He also reiterated what his team had already said – that he plans to return to Russia when he can.

“My job now is to be the fearless guy,” he said. “And I’m not afraid. “

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