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Poisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny demands that Russia give his clothes back

New info on poisoning of Putin critic
Associates of Putin critic Alexei Navalny say he was poisoned at Siberian hotel 02:24

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny accused the Russian government on Monday of keeping a "very important piece of evidence" hidden, demanding that authorities return the clothes he was wearing when he collapsed from poisoning with a Soviet-era nerve agent.

Independent laboratories in Germany, France and Sweden have confirmed the claim from Navalny's team that the leading critic of President Vladimir Putin was poisoned with Novichok. The global chemical weapons watchdog agency, the OPCW, has also taken samples from Navalny, who remains hospitalized in the German capital, and is conducting its own tests.

The dissident fell ill on a domestic flight in Russia last month. His team have said Navalny was likely contaminated with the chemical weapon in his hotel room in Siberia, just before he boarded the flight to Moscow.

The Kremlin has flatly rejected the claim that Navalny was poisoned in Russia, arguing that Germany has failed to hand over any evidence to Moscow to even prompt a domestic criminal investigation.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny speaks for first time since poisoning 00:39

Russian officials have offered various explanations for Navalny's sudden illness since he collapsed on the August 20 flight, from a "metabolic condition" to the suggestions that he may even have been poisoned on route to or after arriving in Germany — several days after he first fell ill.

"Before they allowed for me to be taken to Germany, they took off all my clothes and sent me completely naked," Navalny wrote on his blog Monday. "Considering Novichok was found on my body, and that infection through contact is very likely, my clothes are a very important piece of evidence," he said.

"I demand that my clothes be carefully packed in a plastic bag and returned to me," he said.

A separate post on Navalny's Instagram account was dedicated entirely to his wife, whom he credited with bringing him back to life in the Berlin hospital. He said he had missed their anniversary while he was ill, but that hearing her voice subconsciously healed him as he was brought out of his medically induced coma.

"Love heals and brings you back to life. Julia, you saved me, and let it be written in the textbooks on neuroscience," he said in the post, which showed him sitting on a hospital balcony with his wife.   

On Saturday Navalny described his severe symptoms after falling ill on a plane on August 20, including the inability to form words, saying he still struggled to pour a glass of water or use a phone.

The U.S. government, along with European partners, has demanded an explanation from Moscow of what looks like a very similar poisoning to the one that left a former Russian double agent in critical condition two years ago in England.

The U.K. has charged two alleged Russian agents with that attack, which also used the highly-toxic nerve agent.

Novichok scientist apologizes

A scientist involved in the secret Soviet programme to create the Novichok nerve agent has apologized, to Navalny, meanwhile.

Vil Mirzayanov, a chemist who was the first to reveal Novichok's development, told Russia's TV Rain on Saturday evening that he wanted to "offer my profound apologies to Navalny for the fact that I took part in this criminal business, developing this substance that he was poisoned with."

Mirzayanov now lives in the United States and wrote the first articles on Novichok's development in the early 1990s.

British woman thought deadly Novichok nerve agent was perfume 01:07

His apology comes as another scientist who worked on the programme has denied that Navalny could have been poisoned with Novichok.

So far three scientists, now in their 70s, have made public statements after working on the top-secret Soviet project.

Mirzayanov predicted that Navalny would eventually recover.

"Navalny will just have to be patient but in the end, he should be healthy," Mirzayanov said, predicting recovery would take "almost a year."

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