New information has surfaced about the alleged poisoning of Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader who nearly died in August while on a flight from Siberia to Moscow.
Members of Navalny’s inner circle now say that traces of a deadly, military-grade poison were detected in the hotel room where Navalny had stayed the night before his near-fatal collapse. In an Instagram post, Navalny’s aides wrote that a German laboratory found traces of a Soviet-era nerve agent called Novichok on a water bottle in his hotel room. The opposition leader is currently rehabilitating in Berlin.
Water Bottle Evidence
The team initially believed that Navalny had ingested poison in his morning tea, before boarding a plane back to Moscow on August 20. Soon after the plane took flight, Navalny became violently ill, causing an emergency landing. Navalny subsequently spent weeks in a coma, before beginning a slow recovery in Germany, where he has been given asylum.
Navalny is a prominent critic of the Kremlin and of Russian President Vladimir Putin, leading his inner circle to fear that, as with other Russian dissidents, Navalny may have suffered an assassination attempt by someone in the country’s highest ranks.
But it now appears that Navalny had consumed the Novichok poison the night before his flight, not the morning of. After several laboratory tests, Navalny’s team has confirmed that the poison found in his system matched the traces found on the water bottle in his Siberian hotel room. But that doesn’t necessarily mean there was poison in the water bottle. Alternatively, Navalny could have been poisoned at any point that evening, before passing the poison from his lips to the bottle.
Meanwhile, Russian leaders deny any involvement with the incident. Sergei Naryshkin, director of Russia’s foreign intelligence service SVR, said this week that Moscow eliminated all reserves of Novichok, as well as other chemical weapons, years ago.
“Any speculations Russia still produces or keeps in stock the old reserves of chemical warfare agents are disinformation,” the director stated.
Either way, Navalny is fortunate to be alive. Two years ago, a former Russian spy and his adult daughter were fatally poisoned by Novichok in Britain. But Navalny seems to be recovering. This week, he posted a photo of himself on Instagram for the first time since awaking from his coma a week ago. In the image, he is in a hospital bed, surrounded by family members in medical scrubs.