It would have been hard for the late John Le Carré or Conan Doyle to design a plot such as this for a thriller. Leader of the unofficial opposition to Vladimir Putin, Aleksi Naval’ny, was late last summer the victim of an attempt to poison him (see previous posts, 20 August and 2 September). No doubt it was not expected that this plot would be exposed in the same embarrassing way as the complete screw-up by military intelligence in its attempt to kill a traitor, Skrypal’, in England. Now, however, President Putin realizes that carrying out what he himself called “barbaric” acts like this at home is equally vulnerable to prying eyes.
Miraculously Naval’ny survived. More than that, he has, with the help of the investigative websites Belingcat and Insider exposed the entire plot on Youtube. He then waited while the Kremlin issued the necessary sneering denials before going on to issue the voice recording of a conversation by phone with one of the FSB officers central to the plot without the officer realizing whom he was talking to. The rat caught in the trap, Konstantin Kudryavtsev, was encouraged into a probing conversation with someone claiming to be the assistant to Nikolai Patrushyov, chairman of Russia’s security council.
In the course of the conversation we finally found out from his lips just how the poison, a variation of Novichok, was administered: impregnated into the lining around the crutch of Naval’ny’s blue underpants. Why did the plot fail? We are told by Kudryavtsev, only one of those responsible, that it was because the flight on which Naval’ny took off for Moscow did not continue when he fell ill. Landing en route thus enabled Naval’ny to be taken off to hospital for treatment. We then find out how the FSB secured his clothes in order that tell tale signs of Novichok were removed before detection. Taking out the laundry is an unusual function for FSB officials, so inevitably the local police got dragged into this sorry business. Then they came back a week later to repeat the operation.
Ironically, right at the end of the conversation Kudryavtsev seeks reassurance from his interlocutor that it was alright to repeat these top secret details on an open phone line. But now the entire world can hear him and know who he is. Clearly with today’s technology, the term “secret police” has to fall out of use.
The impact of this scandal on the status of Putin’s régime is hard to foresee. The Kremlin’s public relations machine is in chaos. Putin’s confidence in running things the way he wishes has been seriously undermined, and the manner in which he has ostentatiously centralized power into his own hands leaves him more vulnerable than ever before.
In the meantime the FSB has solemnly announced that there will be an investigation into the Naval’ny video.
ФСБ РОССИИ ОРГАНИЗОВАНА ПРОВЕРКА ТАК НАЗЫВАЕМОГО “РАССЛЕДОВАНИЯ” А. НАВАЛЬНОГО 22.12.2020
And from the liberal Novaya Gazeta:
Навальный опубликовал разговор с тем, кто признался в попытке его отравления и не отрицал свою причастность к ФСБ. Это — политический Чернобыль
Скриншот ПОЛИТИКА18:35 21 декабря 2020