Kijk Eens Aan!
(Update: met video)
“It’s unavoidable that people will claim that you staged this call and that this is not actually an FSB-officer speaking, that’s going to be their only way out. Can you publish the call data from the phone, e.g. the number you called, and link it to the FSB?”
“Judging by the headline, might be fake.”
“If It Hadn’t Been for The Prompt Work Of The Medics”: FSB Officer Inadvertently Confesses Murder Plot to Navalny
December 21, 2020
“Bellingcat and its partners reported that Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) was implicated in the near-fatal nerve-agent poisoning of Alexey Navalny on 20 August 2020. The report identified eight clandestine operatives with medical and chemical/biological warfare expertise working under the guise of the FSB’s Criminalistics Institute who had tailed Alexey Navalny on more than 30 occasions since 2017. At least three of these operatives were in the close vicinity of Navalny near the time of his poisoning.
During his year-end press conference on Thursday of last week, Russian president Vladimir Putin did not deny Bellingcat’s findings, which detailed how these FSB operatives had been tailing Navalny, including on his trip to Tomsk. However, the Russian president claimed – without presenting evidence – that this was due to alleged cooperation between Navalny and “United States intelligence agencies”. Putin also denied that the FSB had any role in his poisoning, and stated that “if [the FSB] wanted to, they would have taken their job to the end”. He did not explain why a suspect would need to be surveilled by officers with chemical-warfare and medical backgrounds, nor why these agents communicated with leading Russian experts in nerve toxins in the days and hours before Navalny’s poisoning, as disclosed by Bellingcat.”
Bellingcat can now disclose that it and its investigative partners are in possession of a recorded conversation in which a member of the suspected FSB poison squad describes how his unit carried out, and attempted to clean up evidence of, the poisoning of Alexey Navalny. The inadvertent confession was made during a phone call with a person who the officer believed was a high-ranking security official. In fact, the FSB officer did not recognize the voice of the person to whom he was reporting details of the failed mission: Alexey Navalny himself.
This 49-minute call between Navalny and Konstantin Kudryavtsev, one of the FSB officers who traveled to Omsk in the aftermath of the Navalny poisoning, provides a detailed first-person account that describes how the FSB organized the attempted assassination in Tomsk as well as the subsequent clean-up operation. The unintended confession adds significant new details to our understanding of the operation, including the exact manner in which, according to the FSB officer, the Novichok was administered. It also sheds light on Russia’s secret service’s efforts to destroy the evidence in the wake of what Kudryavtsev divulges was its failure to kill the opposition activist. Shockingly, the member of the suspected poison squad blames the fast response time of the pilot and emergency medical services for the failure of FSB’s assassination plot.
While Bellingcat representatives witnessed the phone call in real time several hours before the publication of our investigation, its content was so explosive that we decided, before disclosing the existence and contents of the call, to validate key details described by the FSB officer against objective data. We have since been able to confirm key allegations confirming the overall plausibility of the confession.
Navalny’s call to Kudryavtsev under the guise of a fictitious high-ranking aide also raised ethical questions about this method of obtaining data. However, following an internal debate we concluded that this action clearly falls within the realm of the overriding public interest in light of the extraordinary circumstances. Navalny was not working on behalf of any police or security service, nor was he conducting a traditional journalistic investigation — rather, he was in the unique position of investigating his own assassination attempt at a time when no law enforcement agency is willing to do so. To our knowledge, it is without precedent that a target of a political assassination is able to chat for nearly an hour with one of the men on the team that tried to kill him and later cover up the evidence. Our supplemental research into the revelations of this call — detailed further in this article — shows that the information provided by Kudryavtsev is credible, and has led to new investigative leads we had not previously discovered.
At the end of this report we will present the original, unedited audio and transcript of the 49-minute call, recorded by a Bellingcat representative.