Laughing Putin denies poisoning arch-enemy Alexei Navalny and says 'we'd have finished the job and killed him'
VLADIMIR Putin has denied claims that his FSB security service was behind the poisoning of opposition figure Alexei Navalny, saying that if they had targeted him they would have "finished the job".
Navalny, leader of the Progress Party and founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, became ill during a flight between the Russian cities of Tomsk and Moscow in August.
He was later found to have been poisoned using Novichok, a nerve agent develop by the Soviet Union and also used in the 2018 Salisbury attack on Sergei Skripal.
He was transferred to Germany for treatment, and spent weeks in hospital in a serious condition before being discharged.
On Monday, an investigation led by British-based investigative site Bellingcat gave compelling evidence that the attack was carried out by a hit squad of FSB agents that had long been trekking Navalny's movements.
Asked about the claims today at his annual set-piece press conference, Putin said with a laugh: “If we had wanted to poison him, we probably would have finished the job."
There have been further reports that a second attempt was made to poison Navalny as he lay in hospital before he was taken to Germany.
Putin went on to claim that Navalny – who he referred to only as a “patient of a Berlin clinic” – had links to US intelligence.
The Bellingcat investigation was also “laundering” Western intelligence data, he alleged, claiming it was a “trick” to attack Russian leaders.
He added that Navalny “is getting support from the special services, the US in this case”.
“If that is true then of course our agents should keep an eye on him,” he said.
“But that doesn't mean he needs to be poisoned.
"Who needs to poison him?”
Putin was later asked about the wealth of his ex-son-in-law Kirill Shamalov, who at 38 is one of the world' youngest billionaires and whose close connection to Putin is thought to have fuelled his rise.
Such allegations “have always happened, they will continue to happen”, Putin said.
“This is an information battle happening.”
He was also asked about his handling of the coronavirus, which has so far infected more than 2.7million people in Russia and killed at least 49,151.
He said he hadn't yet received a dose of the vaccine produced in Russia, dubbed Sputnik V, because it was not recommended for people over the age of 65.
“I listen to the recommendations of our specialists, which is why the vaccine has not been administered on me,” he said.
"But I will do so without doubt as soon as this becomes possible."
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