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If Kremlin had been behind Navalny poisoning, he'd be dead, says Putin

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Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures as he speaks via video call during a news conference in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020.
Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures as he speaks via video call during a news conference in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko
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Vladimir Putin has denied Kremlin involvement in the poisoning of critic Alexei Navalny, arguing that if Moscow had been behind the attempt on his life it would have got the job done.

Putin made the comment during his annual marathon press conference on Thursday, held virtually this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Navalny, who fell sick during an August 20 domestic flight and was subsequently flown to Berlin where doctors and independent laboratories found traces of the Novichok nerve agent in his body.

"If we had wanted, it would have been completed," said Putin, answering allegations the Russian state was involved in Navalny's poisoning.

He stressed that "his (Alexei Navalny's) wife asked me and I immediately ordered to let him go for treatment in Germany".

Navalny has directly accused Putin of ordering his killing but Russian authorities have vehemently denied being involved in the Novichok attack. They have also questioned the veracity of the tests carried out by laboratories in France, Sweden and Germany and confirmed by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Putin's comments come a day after an investigation carried out by investigative group the Bellingcat, Russian outlet The Insider, CNN and Der Spiegel, identified the supposed secret service operatives and laboratories involved in the attack.

The Russian leader also once more rejected allegations the Kremlin interfered in the 2016 US Presential election.

"Russian hackers didn't help the incumbent, at the moment US president (Donald Trump), to get elected and didn't meddle into internal affairs of this great country."

"This is speculations and excuse to spoil relations between Russia and the United States. It's an excuse not to admit the legitimacy of the incumbent president of the United States that was caused by internal political issues," he added.

He also expressed hope that relations between the two countries will improve under the administration of Joe Biden.

Putin has repeatedly set records for his annual press conference, now in its 16th year. The longest press conference, in 2008, lasted four hours and forty minutes, with the president answering more than 100 questions.