Opposition leader Alexei Navalny accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of directing his poisoning in his first interview since the August attack.
Navalny, an anti-corruption crusader and one of Putin’s most strident critics, has been recovering in a Berlin hospital for more than a month, 24 days of which he spent in intensive care. German officials have said that he was poisoned on Aug. 20 while in Siberia with a nerve agent in the Soviet/Russian Novichok family of chemicals.
During his interview with Germany’s Der Spiegel, which was published on Wednesday, Navalny said he believed that the Russian strongman was responsible for his near-death poisoning.
“I assert Putin was behind the crime,” he told the news organization. “I have no other explanation for what happened.”
Navalny said the poisoning might have been directly orchestrated by one of Russia’s domestic, military, or foreign intelligence services but stressed that the agencies “cannot make a decision like that without being instructed by Putin — they report to him.”
The Kremlin vociferously denied Navalny’s accusations and, in turn, accused him of working for Western intelligence agencies, including the CIA. Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday that “some of these statements in the mentioned publication we consider offensive.”
Peskov said “specialists” from the CIA have been working with Navalny and providing him with “instructions.”
“There is information that these instructors are working with him these days,” Peskov said. “Instructions the patient is receiving are obvious. We have seen such lines of behavior more than once.”
Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the State Duma, reacted to the accusations by calling Navalny “shameless” and claiming the opposition leader was working with Western intelligence agencies.
“Putin saved his life,” Volodin said in a Thursday statement. “Everyone, from pilots and doctors to the president, were genuinely saving him. Only a dishonorable person can make statements like this.”
Navalny initially fell ill and collapsed while on a flight in Siberia. The plane made an emergency landing to take him to the hospital where he was placed in a medically induced coma. Navalny recounted to Der Spiegel how he thought he had died that day on the plane.