Poisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for the chemical attack on him, in his first interview since being discharged from hospital.
In an interview with Germany’s Der Spiegel, published Thursday, the 44-year-old Russian opposition leader said he believed Putin was responsible for him being poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok, a calling card of the Russian secret service.
"I assert that Putin was behind the crime, and I have no other explanation for what happened,” he said.
Navalny gave the interview in Berlin, where he has been treated since he was flown to Germany two days after falling ill on the 20th of August on a domestic flight in Russia. He spent more than a month in hospital, with 24 days in intensive care, before being discharged last week.
But despite the brazen attempt on his life, he said he plans to return to his homeland.
“My job now is to remain the guy who isn’t afraid. And I’m not afraid!” he said. “When my hands shake, it’s not from fear – it’s from this stuff [the effects of the poisoning]. I would not give Putin the gift of not returning to Russia.”
According to the report, Navalny was still in a fragile physical state as he recovered from the poisoning. The wealthy dissident and anti-corruption campaigner had lost 12 kg, had scars on his neck from where he was ventilated, and needed to use both hands to pour water from a bottle.
But Navalny, who is under police protection in Germany, said his condition was improving every day. “The most important thing for me is that my mental abilities have returned,” he said.
Doctors have said he could make a full recovery, but are uncertain of the long-term effects of the poison.
“Basically, I’m a bit of a guinea pig,” he said. “There aren’t many people you can observe who are still alive after being poisoned with a nerve agent.”
Navalny’s poisoning has fuelled a fresh standoff between Russia and the West, with European leaders demanding that the Kremlin investigate and account for the attack. Labs in Germany, France and Sweden have independently confirmed that Navalny was poisoned with Novichok, the same substance used in an attempted assassination of a former Russian spy and his daughter in the UK in 2018.
But Russia has stonewalled those requests, denying any involvement in the incident and saying it has yet to see evidence of a crime.