BERLIN – Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is recovering in Germany after being poisoned in Russia, said in comments published Thursday that only Russian President Vladimir Putin could have been behind the attack against him with a Soviet-era nerve agent.
Navalny's supporters have frequently maintained that the poisoning could have only been ordered at the top level, although the Kremlin has repeatedly dismissed the allegation. German officials have said labs found traces of a chemical agent from the Novichok family in the Russian politician's system.
Navalny, a corruption investigator who is Putin’s fiercest critic, was flown to Germany two days after falling ill on Aug. 20 on a domestic flight in Russia. He spent 32 days in the hospital, 24 of them in intensive care, before doctors deemed his condition sufficiently improved for him to be discharged.
He has posted frequent comments online as his recovery has progressed, but in his first interview since the attack, he told Germany's Der Spiegel, “I assert Putin was behind the crime,” according to an English-language copy of his comments the magazine published online.
“I have no other explanation for what happened," Navalny, 44, said.
He asserted that his poisoning with a Novichok nerve agent only could have been ordered by the heads of Russia's military, domestic, or foreign intelligence agencies, officials who “cannot make a decision like that without being instructed by Putin. They report to him."
The Kremlin on Thursday said that “such accusations against the Russian president are absolutely groundless and unacceptable.”
“Some of these statements in the mentioned publication we consider offensive,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.