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State Department says Russian security agency behind Navalny poisoning

State Department says Russian security agency behind Navalny poisoning
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The State Department on Wednesday assigned blame to Russia’s internal security service, the FSB, as behind the near-fatal attack on Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny alleged to be by the Novichok nerve agent, in a forceful indictment against Moscow.

“The United States believes that officers from the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) used a Novichok nerve agent to poison Mr. Navalny. There is no plausible explanation for Mr. Navalny’s poisoning other than Russian government involvement and responsibility,” a State Department spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill on Wednesday.

“Of course, President Putin and the Russian government would have us believe otherwise. Russia has suggested numerous, often contradictory, conspiracy theories. Let’s be clear – these types of conspiracy theories are nothing more than a means to deflect attention from the serious questions before the Russian government which it has yet to answer.”

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The spokesperson said the U.S. has “full confidence” in findings by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in October that toxic chemicals taken from Navalny’s blood and urine was related to the Novichok group.

“The United States has full confidence in the OPCW’s findings, which confirmed earlier results from German, French and Swedish labs, that Mr. Navalny was exposed to an unscheduled Novichok nerve agent,” the spokesperson said.

The statement from the State Department comes following the publication of a joint investigation between Navalny, the online media outlet Bellingcat and CNN that revealed an elite unit within the FSB placed the poison in Navalny’s underpants after trailing the opposition figure for nearly three years. 

Navalny is currently recovering in Germany where he was transferred in August from a Russian hospital in Omsk, where he was initially taken for treatment after he became ill on a plane leaving the city of Tomsk.

Navalny is a noted thorn in Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinFor better or worse: Which way will US-Saudi relations go under Biden? How to rethink Russia sanctions Tucker Carlson bashes CNN, claims it's 'more destructive' than QAnon MORE’s side and has gained renown for his investigations into corruption by Russian government officials.

Russia has denied that is responsible for the attack on Navalny, and Putin dismissed in a press conference on Thursday allegations that the FSB was involved, though he did say that if they were involved they would have “most likely carried it through.” 

The State Department statement assigning blame to Moscow is likely to further raise tensions between the U.S. and Russia, and comes as the Trump administration is grappling with an unprecedented cyber hack into multiple agencies that senior officials have assigned to Moscow.