EXCLUSIVE by Tim Lister, Clarissa Ward and Sebastian Shukla, CNN
As a lot as this level 2: 47 PM ET, Mon December 21, 2020
Look Clarissa Ward and essentially the latest on the revelations about Navalny’s poisoning and its aftermath, on Anderson Cooper 360˚ tonight on CNN at 8 ET.
Moscow (CNN)A Russian agent sent to tail opposition leader Alexey Navalny has printed how he turn into poisoned in August — with the lethal nerve agent Novichok planted in his underpants.
The beautiful disclosure from an agent who belonged to an elite toxins team in Russia’s FSB security provider came in a lengthy phone name following the unmasking of the unit by CNN and the get investigative outfit Bellingcat remaining week.
In what he turn into instructed turn into a debriefing, Konstantin Kudryavtsev additionally talked about others concerned referring to the poisoning in the Siberian metropolis of Tomsk, and how he turn into sent to trim things up.
But the agent turn into no longer talking to an suited in Russia’s National Safety Council as he belief. He turn into talking to Navalny himself, who virtually died after being poisoned in August.
Navalny has lengthy been a thorn in the side of President Vladimir Putin, exposing corruption in high places and campaigning in opposition to the ruling United Russia celebration.
Putin essentially confirmed remaining week that FSB brokers tailed Navalny however mentioned if Russia had wanted him dead, “they’d’ve doubtlessly completed it.”
The Bellingcat-CNN investigation found that the FSB toxins team of about six to 10 brokers trailed Navalny for added than three years. After figuring out a form of the team, CNN and Bellingcat tried to contact them and their superiors.
One man, Oleg Tayakin, slammed the door shut when questioned by CNN. Others did no longer reply.
At the equal time, Navalny turn into additionally making calls. To birth up with, he instructed the brokers who he turn into, and folks he contacted at this time ended the choice. For the closing name to Kudryavtsev, his team determined on a diversified procedure: a sting operation.
How Navalny did it
Navalny, who is silent convalescing at a secret field in Germany, posed as a senior suited from Russia’s National Safety Council tasked with carrying out an prognosis of the poisoning operation. His phone amount turn into disguised as that of the headquarters of the FSB, in step with Navalny’s team and a recording of the choice later supplied to CNN and Bellingcat.
After Kudryavtsev confirmed his identification, Navalny mentioned he’d been tasked with getting “a short realizing from the team participants: what went sinful, why turn into there a total failure in Tomsk with Navalny?”
Kudryavtsev’s responses in the 45-minute name present the first issue proof of the unit’s involvement in poisoning Navalny.
At cases he’s clearly apprehensive about talking on an unsecured line however Navalny, talking at cases in a brusque and urgent procedure, persuades him that senior officers are tense a document at this time and says that “all of it ought to be discussed at the Safety Council on the supreme stage.”
The FSB on Monday issued an announcement claiming that a video of Navalny’s conversation with Kudryavtsev, posted by the opposition leader on his YouTube channel, turn into a “unfounded” facilitated by foreign intelligence.
“The so-called investigation about actions allegedly taken in opposition to him [which was] printed on-line by [Alexey] Navalny is a planned provocation geared toward discrediting the FSB of Russia and workers of the federal security provider, which do no longer need been that you just may presumably well per chance also possess of without the organizational and technical enhance of foreign particular products and providers,” the observation reads, in step with dispute news agency TASS.
The FSB has launched a “test” of Navalny’s investigation and may presumably well per chance silent give “a procedural review” following its outcomes, the observation mentioned.
Why undies turn into focused
Most dramatically Kudryavtsev supplied a detailed account of how the nerve agent turn into applied to a pair of Navalny’s underpants.
Navalny asked: “What item of clothing turn into the emphasis on? What’s essentially the most hazardous piece of clothing?”
Kudryavtsev spoke back simply: “Underpants.”
Navalny followed by asking precisely where the Novichok turn into applied — the inside of or originate air seams.
“The insides, the crotch,” spoke back Kudryavtsev.
Toxicologists consulted by CNN bid that if applied in granular enjoy to attire, the Novichok would be absorbed via the pores and skin when the sufferer begins to sweat.
They bid that, on this instance, it appears to be like the assailants faded a steady enjoy of the nerve agent, pretty than a liquid or gel as had beforehand been detected in the assault in opposition to dilapidated double agent Sergei Skripal in the UK.
The investigation by Bellingcat and CNN faded hundreds of phone data plus flight manifests and diversified paperwork received by Bellingcat to be aware the team of toxin experts. It established that, on the evening the Novichok in some procedure received into Navalny’s hotel room, there turn into a ping from a cell phone belonging to one in all the toxin team, Alexei Alexandrov, simply a pair of hundred yards from the hotel.
Kudryavtsev acknowledged gleaming Alexandrov and praised his work.
CNN can no longer verify that Kudryavtsev turn into additionally in Tomsk when the poison turn into applied. But the choice showed he had intimate data of what turn into done and that he turn into concerned referring to the cleanup operation to enjoy particular there were no traces of Novichok left after Navalny had left the effectively being facility.
Navalny fell without warning sick on a flight dwelling to Moscow and the pilot diverted to Omsk, where he bought lifesaving emergency treatment from paramedics.
Had the plane flown on to Moscow, Navalny would virtually no doubt own died, in step with experts in toxicology consulted by CNN.
“The flight is ready three hours, right here’s a lengthy flight,” Kudryavtsev mentioned. “If you happen to don’t land the plane the attain would’ve been diversified and the end result would’ve been diversified. So I possess the plane played the decisive piece.”
“[We] did no longer count on all this would happen. I’m particular that everything went sinful,” Kudryavtsev added — suggesting that the FSB’s intent turn into to shatter Navalny, as many toxicologists acquainted with Novichok own mentioned.
When pushed as to whether or no longer the sinful dose of poison may presumably well per chance were administered, Kudryavtsev countered: “As I understand it, we added [a] bit extra.”
The cleanup job
Kudryavtsev’s background suggests he’s a specialist in chemical and organic weapons. He graduated from the Moscow branch of the Russian Academy of Chemical Protection. Bellingcat has established he later worked at the 42nd heart of the Ministry of Protection — its organic security research heart.
The Bellingcat-CNN investigation, that additionally concerned German journal Der Spiegel and Russian on-line e-newsletter The Insider, had already established via flight manifests that Kudryavtsev had flown to Omsk on August 25, 5 days after the poisoning.
“After we arrived, they gave them to us, the native Omsk guys brought [them] with the police,” Kudryavtsev mentioned on the choice. He added they’d applied solutions, so as that there were no traces left on the garments.
“So there couldn’t be any surprises with the garments?” asked Navalny.
“Due to this we went there diverse cases,” Kudryavtsev spoke back.
Navalny and his team own diverse cases demanded that his attire be returned to him, however Russian authorities own refused.
Later, Kudryavtsev says, “I turn into instructed to work precisely with the underpants, on the inside of.”
Navalny asked: “Who mentioned that? Makshakov?”
“Yeah,” answered Kudryavtsev.
Stanislav Makshakov is a scientist identified in the investigation as the suited to blame of the toxin team, which is essentially based completely mostly at the FSB’s Criminalistics Unit on the outskirts of Moscow. He beforehand worked as a colonel at the Shikhany Institute, a Soviet and later Russian research institute on chemical weapons.
The investigation printed remaining week established well-known aspects of the toxin team’s communications and scramble, which showed they’d shadowed Navalny on extra than 30 trips originate air Moscow since 2017. The data additionally printed high-stage contacts between the toxin unit and laboratories in Russia specializing in researching nerve brokers.
Putin and diversified Russian officers own pushed aside the Bellingcat-CNN investigation as piece of a marketing campaign orchestrated by Western intelligence agencies. On Friday, Putin mentioned it represented one in all those “data war” — describing the investigation as “a dump where everything is being dumped, dumped, dumped in hopes that it ought to enjoy an impression on the electorate, instill mistrust in direction of political management.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov acknowledged a surveillance operation on Navalny as a end result of — as he put it — “the increasing ‘ears’ of foreign particular products and providers.”
What the brokers, and Navalny, saw
Navalny instructed CNN Monday that he did no longer possess the recent revelations would lead to an investigation in Russia. “It has turn into so evident that it turn into Putin for my piece who turn into at the help of this,” he mentioned.
He added that he turn into apprehensive by talking to Kudryavtsev. “I turn into amazed surely and couldn’t possess it,” he mentioned. “Simultaneously as a end result of my success and the style he so mechanically says phrases enjoy ‘the job turn into done effectively.’ He clearly does no longer keep in mind himself a member of an assassination team, simply an usual employee.”
In a virtually surreal second on the choice, Navalny commiserated with Kudryavtsev that he had survived.
He went on: “You own gotten got been happening so many trips with Navalny — to Kirov in 2017 — how make you evaluation his personality?”
“Very cautious, worried of everything — on the one hand,” Kudryavtsev spoke back. “But on the diversified hand — he goes in each put etc. Changes rooms generally, very cautious about that.”
He turn into then asked whether or no longer Navalny may presumably well per chance own identified any of the toxin team.
“That may presumably well per chance effectively be no longer most likely, we’re very strict about that, changing attire and all,” he mentioned, including that team took diversified flights when following Navalny at some level of Russia.
Kudryavtsev appears to be like to were happy with the team’s security measures. “No-one filmed, no-one else saw, right here’s always excluded.”
He turn into virtually no doubt ethical in that admire. Navalny instructed CNN he did no longer acknowledge Kudryavtsev or diversified participants of the team when confirmed their footage earlier this month. But this investigation has confirmed that the FSB toxins team from the Institute of Criminalistics left a form of diversified proof of their movements, communications and activities.
Amongst that proof, Kudryavtsev’s cell phone amount — whereby he inadvertently allowed Bellingcat and CNN to total the image of Navalny’s poisoning by the Russian dispute.
CNN has reached out to Kudryavtsev, Makshakov and the Kremlin for comment.
CNN’s Anna Chernova, Mary Ilyushina and Darya Tarasova contributed to this account.