Stranger than fiction

Novichok put in Alexei Navalny’s underwear, says Russian spy

FSB agent tricked into revealing bizarre details of plot to kill Putin’s chief critic

Agents of the Russian security services tried to kill the opposition leader Alexei Navalny by poisoning his underpants with the deadly nerve agent Novichok, according to a member of the assassination unit.

“The stunning disclosure from an agent who belonged to an elite toxins team in Russia’s FSB security service came in a lengthy phone call,” CNN reports. “In what he was told was a debriefing, Konstantin Kudryavtsev also talked about others involved in the poisoning in the Siberian city of Tomsk, and how he was sent to clean things up.”

In fact, Kudryavtsev was talking to Navalny himself, who had “phoned two members of the team from Russia’s FSB spy agency”, says The Guardian. “One recognised him immediately and hung up”, but Kudryavtsev “was seemingly duped into thinking he was talking to an aide working for a top FSB general”.

Navalny fell ill aboard a flight from Tomsk to Moscow in August. He spent several weeks in a medically induced coma at a hospital in Germany, before making a full recovery.

“Laboratory tests in Europe revealed that he had been poisoned with a type of novichok, the Soviet-era poison that was also used in the Salisbury attacks in 2018,” The Times reports.

In his conversation with Navalny, posted on YouTube, Kudryavtsev says the FSB team disabled security cameras in the hotel where the opposition leader was staying and broke into his room with the poison.

“When asked by Mr Navalny to describe what item of clothing the agents had smeared with the nerve agent, Mr Kudryavtsev replied: ‘The underpants’,” The Times recounts. “When pressed further, he said: ‘They told us to work on the underpants. On the inside part. The crotch.’”

According to tests carried out by the US army, “the groin is one of the areas of the human body that is most sensitive to nerve agents”, the paper explains.

Investigative journalists has previously suggested that the poison had been delivered in a negroni recommended by his hotel bartender. It “tasted like the most disgusting thing I’ve had in my life”, he said last week.

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