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Russian operatives who reportedly tracked Navalny before last summer’s alleged poisoning also tailed famous author – Bellingcat

Russian operatives who reportedly tracked Navalny before last summer’s alleged poisoning also tailed famous author – Bellingcat
An online collective who claimed that Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny was poisoned by the country’s Federal Security Service (FSB), last year, have now suggested that the same team was behind an attack on a famous writer.

In an article published on Wednesday, Russian-language outlet The Insider and US/UK government-funded outfit Bellingcat claimed that employees of the FSB poisoned Dmitry Bykov, a well-known public intellectual.

According to the report, Bykov began being tailed by operatives in May 2018 and was followed around the country. Eleven months later, in April 2019, the writer flew to the city of Ufa, in the Russian Urals. On that flight, Bykov began to fall ill, and suffered from what Bellingcat called “uncontrollable vomiting” before eventually losing consciousness. He was placed on artificial ventilation and was transferred to Moscow, where he remained in a medically induced coma for five days. The doctors treated him symptomatically, unable to diagnose the cause of his illness, the report says.

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The report claims that the poisoning was carried out by employees of the FSB Criminalistics Institute and the Department for Protection of the Constitutional System, also known as the ‘Second Service’. In particular, the team fingers specific agents who they say were on many of the same flights as Bykov.

As told by The Insider and Bellingcat, the story has remarkable similarities to the methods apparently used in the alleged attempted murder of Navalny. Like Bykov, the opposition figure too fell ill on a flight, and ended up in a medically induced coma. According to the group, the two alleged targets also displayed the same symptoms, including vomiting, heavy breathing, and sweating. These symptoms were also published by Navalny’s German doctors, who detailed them in a report in the British medical journal The Lancet. Navalny and Bykov also had a similar glycemic profile, the article claims, citing unnamed medical professionals.

The similarities between the two cases don’t stop at the illness, the report suggests. In the Navalny case, Bellingcat and The Insider indicated that he was allegedly poisoned by the placing of nerve agent Novichok in his underwear. The latest report claims that the same method was used against Bykov, but the poison was placed on a t-shirt.

Bellingcat’s claim that the FSB was behind the poisoning of Navalny has been vehemently denied by the Russian government, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov calling the activist a “megalomaniac” with a persecution complex. It’s also unclear why Moscow would keep using a team which consistently fails in its apparent assassination attempts.

Bykov is known in Russia as one of the country’s most prolific writers, having written countless novels, essays, and poems, as well as three critically acclaimed biographies. As well as his written work, Bykov has also been a critic of the government under President Vladimir Putin and openly opposed the reabsorption of Crimea into Russia in 2014.

Bellingcat was founded in 2014 by Eliot Higgins, who previously worked as a ‘fellow’ at pro-NATO pressure group the Atlantic Council. Both Bellingcat and the Atlantic Council have received funding from Western governments, including America’s National Endowment for Democracy. The investigative collective became well-known in 2014 when its findings on downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 were quote by international media. It has since published articles on the Syrian and Yemeni Civil wars, as well as the war in Donbass. Many have criticized the group for focusing its reports on enemies of where its funding comes from, such as the US, and only conducting small scale investigations of its home markets.

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