Mr. Navalny, recovering in Germany from poisoning with a substance from the Novichok class of Soviet-era nerve agents, said in an interview with Der Spiegel that responsibility for the attack on his life rests with the man in the Kremlin. “I assert that Putin was behind the crime, and I have no other explanation for what happened,” he said. “I have no other versions of the crime. I am not saying this to flatter myself, but on the basis of facts.” Mr. Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, rejected the charge and offered the lame and ludicrous claim that Mr. Navalny is working with the CIA.
Mr. Navalny had been organizing local election campaigns in Tomsk, then fell ill aboard a plane en route to Moscow on Aug. 20. The plane made an emergency landing in Omsk. Since this all happened inside Russia, the Russian authorities should get to the bottom of what was clearly an attempt on his life. Instead, Mr. Putin and others around him have been doing everything but. On Sept. 9, after Mr. Navalny was transported to Germany, and doctors there confirmed use of the nerve agent, Russia denounced “groundless accusations against” the country and a “massive misinformation campaign.” Then, on Sept. 14, according to Le Monde, Mr. Putin told French President Emmanuel Macron in a phone call that Mr. Navalny may have poisoned himself, that he was an “Internet troublemaker who has simulated illnesses in the past.”
On Sept. 25, Russia criticized “a broad smear campaign baselessly accusing Russian authorities of allegedly poisoning the Russian citizen.” Russia suggested that perhaps the incident was “another staged mystical use of chemical weapons,” and claimed that since the United States and European nations had studied Novichok compounds, this “refutes any possible arguments that such technologies should only be associated with the U.S.S.R. or Russia.” In other words, move on, nothing to see here.
Mr. Putin doth protest too much. The Novichok class of nerve agents was invented in the Soviet Union as a chemical weapon — and inherited by Russia. This compound is in possession of the state that Mr. Putin leads. All the evidence suggests that Russia’s intelligence services used the same nerve agent in a 2018 murder attempt against former military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, England. And, speaking of precedent, we recall the fate of others who criticized Mr. Putin: Anna Politkovskaya, Alexander Litvinenko, Boris Nemtsov. All were murdered.
Mr. Putin is fooling no one with the parlor games.