Reuters . Thu, December 17, 2020, 11:40 AM GMT+1
MOSCOW (Reuters) -President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that a joint media investigation that identified named individuals as state security assassins responsible for the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny was a “trick” to attack Russia’s leaders.
Navalny declared his poisoning case solved on Monday after the joint investigation said it had identified a team of assassins from Russia’s FSB security service as his would-be killers, who had stalked him for years.
The FSB, the main domestic security successor to the Soviet-era KGB, has not commented on the report. The Kremlin has repeatedly rejected any suggestion that Russia tried to kill Navalny, one of Putin’s leading critics, who collapsed on a domestic Russian flight in August.
Navalny was airlifted for medical treatment to Germany after the incident, where he remains. German Chancellor Angela Merkel says he was poisoned with a Soviet-style Novichok nerve agent in an attempt to murder him, an assertion many Western nations accept.
Putin on Thursday dismissed the allegations, saying Navalny was not important enough to be a target. If somebody had wanted to poison Navalny, they would have finished the job, he said with a laugh.
Putin also accused Navalny of receiving support from U.S. intelligence services, something he said meant that Russia’s security apparatus should keep an eye on him.
“But that doesn’t mean he needs to be poisoned,” said Putin. “Who needs him?”
(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin, Andrew Osborn and Olesya Astakhova; Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Mark Trevelyan/Andrew Osborn)