The controversy and mystery surrounding the alleged poisoning of Russian activist and opposition figure Alexey Navalny just escalated dramatically upon the first published full media interview with Navalny, who after recovering in a German hospital was recently released. The bombshell interview with German newsmagazine Der Spiegel hit the web Thursday. Navalny alleged directly that Putin was behind the poisoning, saying he had “no other explanation for what happened."
“Putin is behind the crime,” Navalny said in the newly published interview. “I have no other versions of the crime. I am not saying this to flatter myself, but on the basis of facts.” And for the first time he described harrowing details aboard the Russian flight where he fell unconscious:
“I leave the toilet, turn to the steward - and instead of asking for help, I say, to my own surprise: 'I've been poisoned. I'm dying.' And then I lay down on the ground in front of him to die.”
Navalny has only recently fully recovered and left the hospital. Much of the interview was focused on Germany's intervention in the saga, which began with an emergency medical transport flight across Russian borders and all the way to Berlin, where he was later even visited by Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“They were waiting for me to die,” Navalny said of the Russians who he says poisoned him. “The Russian leadership has developed such an inclination to poison that it will not stop so soon,” he said. “My medical history will yet become instructive.”
This after German officials last month alleged the poison was from the 'Novichok' family — a Cold War era military grade nerve-agent which was developed only by the Soviet Union, which critics of the story say is bizarre given how "obvious" Russian fingerprints behind such an "assassination attempt" would be.
Navalny tells Der Spiegel: "I assert that Putin was behind the crime."
And there's also the fact that prior to the alleged poisoning of a 'popular opposition leader' the reality is that a huge chunk of the Russian population may have never heard of him:
The 'western' media jumped onto the 'Navalny was poisoned' claim to heap the usual trash on Russia. They also claimed that Navalny is the 'opposition leader' in Russia even as he polls at 2% which is lower than the leader of the communist party and several other real opposition politicians.
Der Spiegel acknowledges at one point in the interview that prior to the poisoning incident, he was largely unknown to Europe or the rest of the world:
The Kremlin has an explanation, apparently. Within hours after Navalny pointing the finger directly at President Putin, the Russian president's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said this was all "probably" a CIA operation.
The official Russian response is now being widely reported via state media sources:
Western intelligence agencies – in particular, agents from the American CIA – are working with Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman alleged on Thursday.
"Probably, it is not the patient [Navalny] who works for the Western special services, but that the Western intelligence services who work with him – this would be more correct [to say]," Dmitry Peskov explained. “I can even be specific: these days, specialists from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States of America are working with him.”
"This isn't the first time he's been given different instructions," the spokesman continued. "The instructions given to the patient are obvious. We have seen such patterns of behavior on more than one occasion."
This bombshell accusation against Navalny also comes after Russia has been persistent in demanding further, independently obtained evidence from Germany. It appears the statement also referenced the "pattern" of accusations which surrounded the Skripal case in the UK.
Also on the question of Navalny being an "exile" from Russia, Peskov emphasized he can return to his homeland at any time.
"Any citizen of Russia can return to his homeland at any time," the Kremlin spokesman said. "Treatment can take place in our country, in fact, almost all people avail of this. Lives are saved in our country, and the life of this patient was also saved in Russia."