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Russia’s top spy comments on alleged Navalny ‘replacement’

Speaking to the Moscow newspaper Argumenty i Fakty on Wednesday, Sergey Naryshkin claimed that Western nations were behind Navalny, but his imprisonment has led to their intelligence agencies giving up on instigating a mass protest movement in Russia.

“Today, the US and EU intelligence community is forced to admit that public interest in the ‘Berlin patient’ is steadily declining,” he said, referring to Navalny. “I will say more – they are already looking for a replacement as the emblem of Russian protest.”

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“The Russian population proved to be far more sensible and reasonable than Western spin doctors are used to arrogantly thinking,” he continued.

In August last year, Navalny fell ill on a flight to Moscow from Tomsk, in Siberia. After his plane made an emergency landing in Omsk, another Siberian city, he was taken to hospital and placed in a coma. A few days later, after requests from his family and associates, he was flown to Germany, where he was treated in Berlin’s Charite Clinic.

According to the opposition figure, he was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok on the Kremlin’s orders. Navalny pointed the finger directly at President Vladimir Putin, blaming the country’s leader for ordering the hit. The Kremlin has denied any knowledge of the plot.

The latest accusations aren’t the first time a Russian government official has charged the West with being behind Navalny and his movement. Earlier this year, the Foreign Ministry suggested that the alleged poisoning of Navalny was a plan by the West designed to discredit Moscow on the world stage.

In January this year, Navalny returned to Russia from Germany, knowing that he would likely be put in prison for breaking the conditions of a suspended sentence handed to him in 2014, when he was found guilty of embezzling 30 million rubles ($415,000) from two companies, including the French cosmetics brand Yves Rocher. He was sentenced to 32 months in jail.

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