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Russia's Navalny says he is '100% sure' Putin ordered elite team to trail him before poisoning

Posted December 15, 2020 2:59 p.m. EST

— Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny has told CNN that he is certain Russian leader Vladimir Putin knew of an elaborate shadowing operation by elite agents before he was poisoned.

"I am totally sure that Putin was aware," Navalny said on Tuesday, during an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

"The operation of such skill and for such a long time cannot exist without a ruling from the chief of (Russian Security Service) FSB, Mr. Bortnikov. And he would never dare it without the direct order of President Putin."

The anti-corruption crusader was reacting to an investigation by the group Bellingcat and joined by CNN, which pieced together how a FSB unit followed his team throughout an August trip to Siberia.

The investigation found that two teams comprising five or six agents were deployed on Navalny's Siberian trip in August 2020, including people who specialized in toxins and nerve agents.

The Russian government has not responded to the report, though the Kremlin has previously denied any involvement in Navalny's poisoning.

Navalny fell ill while travelling on August 20 during a four-hour flight from Tomsk to Moscow.

The plane's captain diverted to the city of Omsk and requested medical help and it was later found that the Russian opposition leader had been poisoned by the nerve agent Novichok.

The European Union has since imposed sanctions on several senior officials including Bortnikov, saying he was "responsible for providing support to the persons who carried out or were involved in the poisoning" of Navalny.

The CNN/Bellingcat investigation also found that the FSB team had followed Navalny's team on more than 30 trips to and from Moscow since 2017.

"We all understand how [the] sausage was made [now]," Navalny said, in reaction to the unveiled details.

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