A victim of a failed assassination attempt claims he posed as a Russian intelligence aide and tricked an operative into revealing details of his poisoning - including that nerve agent Novichok was administered to his underwear.
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny fell ill on a flight from Tomsk, in Siberia, to Moscow in August, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing in Omsk, southwestern Siberia. He was rushed to hospital, before being taken to Germany for further treatment.
German doctors concluded Navalny had been poisoned with Soviet era nerve agent Novichok, prompting suspicions the assassination attempt was carried out by Russian security agency FSB.
Investigative journalism site Bellingcat has since published the names of eight operatives they believe to have been involved in the botched hit. Navalny, who is still recovering at a secret location in Germany, decided to try and trick them into confessing their involvement in the plot.
According to The Guardian, one operative recognised Navalny's voice on the phone immediately and ended the call, but the second person he phoned, Konstantin Kudryavtsev, appeared to fall for his ruse.
Navalny, who had disguised his call as coming from the FSB headquarters, posed as an aide working for a senior FSB general who was demanding to know why the assassination attempt had failed.
Kudryavtsev admitted the FSB was behind the poisoning, and also revealed the Novichok was applied to Navalny's underpants.
According to CNN's translation, Navalny asked: "What item of clothing was the emphasis on? What is the most risky piece of clothing?"
Kudryavtsev replied: "Underpants." He went on to specify that the poison was applied to 'the insides, the crotch'.
Toxicologists consulted by CNN confirmed that the Novichok would be absorbed through the skin if applied to the inside of underwear when the wearer started to sweat.
Kudryavtsev also admitted he had been sent to Omsk to remove all traces of Novichok from Navalny's clothes, and he said the clean-up operation had been carried out effectively.
Russian president Vladimir Putin has admitted that Navalny was tailed by FSB agents, but added that if Russia wanted him dead, 'they would've probably finished it'.
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