Kremlin Says Navalny Obsessed After Underwear Poison Fail
(Bloomberg) -- President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman accused Alexey Navalny of megalomania after the Russian opposition leader claimed that the Kremlin attempted to poison him by putting a banned nerve agent into his underwear.
Navalny says his claims were based on a recorded phone call with one of his would-be assassins in which he posed as an adviser to Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev.
“We can say that the patient has a pronounced persecution mania,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday on a call with reporters, while refusing to mention Navalny by name. “You can also clearly establish a certain manifestation of megalomania, because, as they say, he even compares himself to Jesus. As for the rest, of course, there’s a Freudian symptom that is marked by a fixation with your own crotch area.”
The Kremlin’s response comes amid the alleged sloppiness of Russia’s secret services, with Navalny’s YouTube video detailing the conversation already watched nearly 13 million times since it was posted Monday. Last week, the investigative website Bellingcat said it had identified members of a clandestine Federal Security Service (FSB) unit specializing in poisons had followed Navalny since January 2017.
The FSB dismissed the video as a fake made with assistance from foreign intelligence in order “to discredit the Federal Security Service,” the Interfax news service reported Monday.
Bellingcat, which specializes in open-source investigations, has targeted Russian spies in the past. Previously, it said it identified the Russian agents who attempted to murder Sergei Skripal in the U.K., leading to the spectacle of the two men appearing on a Kremlin-funded news network to claim they were tourists traveling under their real names.
Putin denied the government was behind the poisoning last week during his annual press conference, saying that if the authorities had wanted to kill Navalny they would have succeeded. The Russian leader said Navalny was under surveillance and said U.S. spy services had planted the Bellingcat report.
In a tweet Tuesday, Navalny said Peskov’s comments showed the Kremlin spokesman had watched the video, even though he denied that. “Then he said I compare myself to Jesus, maybe that’s how he referred to Christo Grozev,” he said, referring to Bellingcat’s lead Russia investigator.
Navalny says he was poisoned while campaigning in Siberia in August by what European laboratories later identified as Novichok, a weapons-grade nerve agent developed in Russia. He fell ill during a flight back to Moscow, prompting pilots of the plane to make an emergency landing in the city of Omsk so that he could be given medical treatment.
The alleged agent in the conversation said the attack might have ended differently had the plane not landed or if it hadn’t been for the prompt work by emergency medics on the scene. Navalny pressed him on details of where the poison was applied and was told that the FSB targeted the inner seam of his underwear.
Navalny said he called other members of the alleged FSB team but they appeared not to respond. The one who did talk said he’d been involved in cleaning up after the operation, rather than the poisoning itself.
Navalny is currently recovering in Germany, which has supported his claim that the Kremlin was behind the attack. The European Union in October sanctioned six senior Russian officials over the use of the banned poison suspected in the poisoning and Russia retaliated Tuesday, banning European officials it didn’t name. The Kremlin has denied Russia was responsible for Navalny’s illness.
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