CNN’s international correspondent Clarissa Ward worked closely with Alexey Navalny and his team to investigate the people behind the poisoning.
She spoke to CNN’s Ana Cabrera about the investigation and the mistakes made by the Russian intelligence team.
Question: Why does he pose such a threat to Russian President Vladimir Putin that he wants him either in prison or dead?
A: Many people have been really confused as to why President Putin has gone so far as to prevent Navalny from doing his job. The easy answer, I think, is that he has exposed the violent corruption in Russia and he has mobilized a huge amount of support online, especially with young people.
And there is a sense that President Putin has no tolerance for any real political opponents. You may remember that Boris Nemtsov was assassinated just a few hundred meters from the Kremlin a few years ago.
It is a dangerous business to get involved in opposition in any way, shape or form in Russia. And Alexey Navalny is the most galvanizing force the opposition has had in many years. So I think for these reasons that the Kremlin has done everything in its power to try to stop him.
Question: You worked closely with Navalny and his team while investigating the assassination attempt against him. What was the most surprising thing you discovered?
A: I think the most surprising thing, frankly, was to see how Russian Security Forces (FSB) were in many ways very sloppy in their craft.
The extraordinary moment in this documentary is when Navalny actually calls one of his future assassins on an open line and pretends to be a senior assistant to the National Security Council. And this man, as he speaks to him, actually ends up wasting the prayers, believing in Navalny, his claim to be the top official in the administration, and telling the details of how the poisoning was carried out – sprinkled with the poison in his underwear. And it is this moment where your jaw drops because you realize that sometimes there is an aura of invincibility around Putin’s Russia and this kind of Machiavellian slick image that he has cultivated. But we found again and again several cases where they did things that other security services would be shocked by.
To give you another example, one of the oncoming assassins actually made a call – opened his cell phone the night Navalny was poisoned from a hotel just a few blocks away from where Navalny was. And that was what made it possible for Bellingcat and the Navalny team, along with us and some others, to put the pieces together in the puzzle.
Stay tuned tonight at 21.00 ET to watch the CNN movie “Navalnyj” on CNN.