Putin Denies Involvement in Poisoning of Navalny

Hours later, shortly after taking off from Tomsk for Moscow, Mr. Navalny was heard screaming in the bathroom of the plane before collapsing and forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing. When he got to a hospital in Omsk, another Siberian city, he was in a coma.

Updated

Dec. Dec. 17, 2020 at 7:24 am ET

Mr Putin finally allowed Mr Navalny to be flown to Berlin for treatment. German military scientists found that Mr. Navalny had been poisoned with a poison from the Russian-made Novichok family of nerve agents. These results have been confirmed by laboratories in France and Sweden, as well as the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the global watchdog for chemical weapons.

But Russia has consistently denied any involvement, claiming at one point that Mr Navalny could have been poisoned in Germany. On Thursday, Putin claimed that Western intelligence agencies had used the poisoning to raise the profile of Navalny.

“This trick of the political struggle is used all over the world,” said Putin.

The marathon press conference has a long tradition for Mr Putin and shows with great enthusiasm that he is accountable to the people. The event usually has a circus-like atmosphere: journalists from all over the country pack a Moscow conference hall dressed in traditional clothing of their region or with brightly colored signs to attract the president’s attention.

This time, due to the pandemic, journalists video-linked questions from conference rooms across the country, as far as the port city of Vladivostok, which is more than 5,500 miles away on the Pacific. Mr Putin spoke from a studio in his residence outside Moscow, in line with his practice since the beginning of the pandemic of practically avoiding physical contact with others.

Questions at the beginning of the press conference focused on the coronavirus pandemic, which killed 49,151 people in Russia, according to official statistics. Repeating a common refrain from Russian officials and the state media, Mr Putin admitted that Russia had been badly hit but insisted it was worse elsewhere. He highlighted Russia’s development of its own coronavirus vaccine and the creation of thousands of special hospital beds.

“There is a sea of ​​problems, but this sea, this ocean is everywhere,” said Putin. “I can confidently say that we have solved these problems worthily, perhaps even better than in other countries.”

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