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“He was not supposed to survive”: One of Navalny’s poisoners admits to the assassination attempt

In their previous investigationThe Insider и Bellingcat named the officers of the FSB Criminalistics Institute (commonly known as the NII-2) complicit in Alexei Navalny's poisoning. This installment addresses the accidental confession of Konstantin Kudryavtsev, one of Navalny’s poisoners who spoke to his victim thinking it was the aide of Nikolai Patrushev, the Secretary of the Security Council, on the phone and gave a detailed account of the assassination attempt. In particular, he explained that Navalny had survived the poison thanks to the pilots’ actions and the atropine injection he’d received from the paramedics and specified that the poison had been applied to the politician’s underpants and that traffic police had helped the FSB to cover up their tracks. To remind you, Vladimir Putin has already validated the results of our joint investigation with Bellingcat when he refrained from denying that the FSB officers mentioned in the article were close to Navalny on the indicated dates. Now that Konstantin Kudryavtsev’s appearance and voice have been made public, the Russian government has only one way to debunk our findings: have Kudryavtsev give a public interview so that everyone can compare his voice to the recording.

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At around half past six in the morning of October 14, 2020, mere hours before The Insider and Bellingcat would publish their previous investigation, Alexei Navalny made a few phone calls to his poisoners, including Konstantin Kudryavtsev. Navalny was using software that enabled him to set the caller's number, so Kudryavtsev thought he’d received a call from work (as we learned, that number was normally used by NII-2 official Artem Troyanov). FSB officers also used the number as a switch for when they needed to reach top-ranking officers.

Navalny introduced himself as Maxim Ustinov, Nikolai Patrushev’s aide, and asked to clarify a few nuances for his report up the chain of command. By the time of the call, Navalny had already learned from Bellingcat and The Insider that Kudryavtsev had been following him (for instance, on the trip to Kirov) and that Kudryavtsev had flown to Omsk after Navalny's departure to Berlin. From the onset, the investigators assumed that Kudryavtsev had flown to Omsk to fetch Navalny's poisoned clothes because he’d worked at a chemical weapons facility in Shikhany prior to the NII-2 and had a degree from the NBC Protection Military Academy; therefore, he had the skills to eliminate the traces of Novichok. Navalny’s conversation with Kudryavtsev validated this theory, also revealing that Kudryavtsev had been instructed to pay special attention to the inside of Navalny’s underpants, which means that's where the poison had been applied (in line with The Insider and Bellingcat’s earlier hypothesis).

Kudryavtsev also said he believed the operation had been well-planned and that its failure resulted from an unfortunate coincidence. According to Kudryavtsev, Navalny wouldn’t have survived, had it not been for the pilot making a swift emergency landing and the paramedics injecting him with atropine to treat his symptoms. He also mentioned other poisoners: his boss Stanislav Makshakov (a toxicologist and Novichok expert who had also worked in Shikhany, the 33rd Research Institute of the Ministry of Defense, which specializes in NBC defense, and finally, at FSB NII-2), Ivan Osipov, and Alexei Alexandrov – the one who had been careless enough to turn on his phone in Novosibirsk and Tomsk. He had never heard about Panyaev, though, which probably attests to Panyaev not being a full-fledged team member but rather one of the supervising FSB officers.

Kudryavtsev also refers to a ninth poisoner, whom The Insider and Bellingcat had not named in the previous part of their investigation: Vasily Kalashnikov. The metadata on Kudryavtsev’s phone indicates he had indeed contacted Kalashnikov upon arrival in Omsk. As we found out, Vasily Kalashnikov is an expert in gas chromatography – mass spectrometry, a modern method of detecting nerve agent metabolites in biological samples. Kalashnikov has published articles on the subject, signing them as an FSB NII-2 researcher. As Makshakov's phone records show, he called Kalashnikov on the morning of August 20, then shortly after Navalny had gone into a coma and his plane had landed in Omsk, and finally, on August 21, a few minutes before the authorization to take Navalny to Germany for treatment was suddenly recalled. Presumably, it was Kalashnikov who made the call about permitting Navalny's transfer to Berlin because identifying Novichok by bloodwork results was no longer possible (the FSB seems to have been oblivious about the nerve agent traces on the bottle).

Vasily Kalashnikov
Vasily Kalashnikov

(For a complete conversation transcript, please refer to the bottom of the article.)

Kudryavtsev also remarked that the man who had handed him the clothes for decontamination was a certain Mikhail, the head of the local anti-terrorist FSB department. Navalny called him too. (The transcript of their conversation can be also found below.) Mikhail refused to speak on an open line but confirmed submitting the clothes to Kudryavtsev and cooperating with local traffic police. We identified him as Mikhail Evdokimov from the epic photo of suspicious individuals in civilian clothes at the hospital where Navalny was brought (Evdokimov is the one standing at the wall). The photo also features Vyacheslav Kryukov, head of the Directorate of the Ministry of the Interior for the Omsk Region (the man with his face mask pulled down).

The transcript of the conversation between Navalny and Kudryavtsev

K: Hello, Artem! Greetings.

M: Konstantin?

K: Hello?

M: Konstantin Borisovich?

K: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

M: My name is Maxim Sergeevich Ustinov. I’m the aide of Nikolai Platonovich Patrushev. Vladimir Mikhailovich Bogdanov gave me your number. Sorry for bothering you this early, but I really need ten minutes of your time, so please bear with me here.

K: I’m all yours.

M: The commanders are having yet another iteration of their discussions. They might ask you to prepare another report a little later, but I’m now writing a report for Nikolai Platonovich, who will present it to the Security Council on the highest level. I just need a paragraph, a general understanding from the task force members: what went wrong in Tomsk? Why did they fail so utterly with Navalny? I’d like to hear your opinion, please, and make sure to include it in your report for later as well.

K: Well, the Omsk operation was a failure...

M: No, it’s Tomsk, I’m asking about Tomsk.

K: Tomsk?

M: Yes.

K: What about Tomsk?

M: Konstantin Borisovich.

K: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

M: Did you hear what I just said? I’m calling on Patrushev's behalf.

K: *Coughs* Yes, I hear what you say. I’m just trying to recall what specifically went down in Tomsk.

M: Well, why did you go to Omsk on the 25th?

K: To Omsk or to Tomsk?

M: You traveled to Omsk on the 25th. Tomsk is where the operation took place, and I’m drawing up a summary report of what went down there. Later, Vladimir Mikhailovich will ask you to present and detailed version. I understand that you’ve already done it, but my superiors have asked me to prepare the paperwork for the Security Council. So you’ll help me out a great deal by not keeping Nikolay Platonovich waiting.

K: I’d love to be able to help, but I’m currently self-isolating with COVID.

M: That's why I’m calling you.

K: How about calling Makshakov?

M: I’ll phone Makshakov too, of course. That is, I’m now... The procedure is simple: I call Makshakov, Alexandrov, and Tayakin, and ask each of you to give me two paragraphs of explanations because what I need at the end of the day is a two-page report. You understand perfectly well who this report is meant for. I don't want to throw weight around and give you any names, but I wouldn’t be calling you or Bogdanov at seven a.m. were it not an emergency. It's just that it says here: “Kudryavtsev: explains the failure of the operation as follows, gives the causes, and suggests how to remedy the situation.”

K: I’d write everything you need, but I’m at home in quarantine.

M: So you just tell me, and I’ll write it down.

K: I’ve signed a non-erm (?) agreement. If you talk to Makshakov...

M: I will talk to him. Konstantin, all I’m asking is for you to hear me. Of course, you will prepare a written report for Bogdanov a little later. I’m not asking for much at the moment; I’m calling everyone, your colleagues included. All I need is for you to dictate a single paragraph for me. In your opinion, what was the main reason for the Tomsk operation failure? I’m writing it down.

K: Well, I don't have all of the information now.

M: Of course. But based on the information that you do have at the moment?

K: ...

M: Hello, I’m listening.

K: ...

M: Let me help you out. Could you just... On a scale of one to ten, how would you evaluate Alexandrov's performance? I know that he’s a colleague of yours, but still.

K: A-alexandrov?

M: Yes.

K: He did well, yeah. My assessment is positive.

M: How would you evaluate Tayakin’s leadership? Task force coordination?

K: Tayakin wasn't there. Osipov was.

M: I know that Tayakin wasn't in the field and I know about Osipov, but Tayakin did contribute to the operation, didn't he?

K: I don't know. I don't have the information, so I can’t confirm it.

M: All right. How would you evaluate Osipov, from one to ten? Wait a sec, I’m writing down.

K: Yeah-yeah-yeah, I’d give him a positive evaluation.

M: Okay, so this brings us to a logical question – as you understand, I’ll have to explain this to Patrushev – if you’re saying you assess both Alexandrov and Osipov positively, why did it all come down to nothing?

K: Well, that’s the question I’ve asked myself more than once. It looks like there was a (?) situation – according to the information I have, and I don’t have all the information, only the facts that I know directly and the facts that I’m given.

M: This is exactly why we're drawing up this report: to compare perspectives. At the moment, all I’m after is your opinion.

K: Well, I assess the performance positively. At least, the job was done, speaking about both preparation and execution, as I see it. We did multiple iterations.

M: Well, that’s my point: the preparation was thorough.

Konstantin Kudryavtsev, a photo from the Odnoklassniki social network
Konstantin Kudryavtsev, a photo from the Odnoklassniki social network

K: Are you calling from Artem Troyanov’s bureau? It's just that I saw his number on the screen.

M: Yes, of course, I’m calling through... I’m calling through the general system. Bogdanov asked me to use it, so I’m using it, so don’t worry [about confidentiality].

K: Ah.

M: Great. An obvious question that requires an answer for my report. If you assess both Osipov’s and Alexandrov's performance positively, why did they fail? What must be done in the future to avoid such an outcome?

K: Phew. Well, as you may understand, our work has plenty of issues and nuances. We always do our best to take as many of them into account as possible to avoid any miscalculations and so on, see?

M: I see, yes.

K: The preparation was a painstaking effort, or at least I think it was. Especially if you consider earlier efforts in this regard. However, there are always nuances. Every single job comes with a lot of nuances. The entire situation turned out somehow, on the one hand... Well, how shall I put it...

M: Well?

K: Well, I’ve also been thinking about what could have... The landing, as you probably understand, when the plane took off and then landed, the odds were... Not in our favor, I'd say. Had it been even a little longer, the events may have unfolded differently.

M: Had what been a little longer, Konstantin Borisovich?

K: The flight.

M: Had the flight been a little longer?

Well, probably, yes, had it been a little longer before the emergency landing, the situation may have been very different. That is, had it not been for the rapid response of the ambulance paramedics on the runway, and so on.

M: The pilot landed the plane forty minutes later. In principle, it should have been accounted for at the planning stage. It's not like the plane landed instantly. Was it about the wrong dosage? What else could have gone wrong?

K: Well, I can't say exactly what happened. As I understand, we made all the allowances so...

M: Great. I’m being frank with you because I want you to understand my perspective too. I’ve got superiors, and you know what superiors can be like: “Come on, be quick, write everything down for the fifteenth time!”

K: Yeah, yeah, I get it.

M: So I’ve got a question before me: “What was the problem? There was Kalinigrad, and then there was Tomsk. Why weren't the Kaliningrad issues taken into account to make sure the operation goes smoothly in Tomsk?

K: Well, I don't know a thing about Kaliningrad. I just don't have the information. I know what went down in Tomsk, but I don't know anything about Kaliningrad. That’s the deal. I don't have the info.

M: Could you please shed the light on the mechanics: how was the chemical applied? Do you think they made the right call?

K: Well, yeah, yeah, I think they did.

M: In a nutshell, how would you describe the application process for my report?

K: Well, we should probably use a separate line for that...

M: Well, you know who the report is meant for. The operative line is not really... My point is that the man is not a professional in the area and doesn’t want to go into detail. How do I explain to him briefly how it was done? Just to make sure I use the right words.

K: How was what done?

M: How the chemical was applied.

K: Well, as I said, it's better to use the operative line for that. As you know, my job was afterward...

M: Yes, I’m aware of that.

K: I wasn't involved in the very... At least, what we did was afterward – that’s when we performed our tasks. Well, yeah, the fact of detection probably... How shall I put it? Where it was applied, where... Yeah, we did the job there, accordingly. There may have been a certain probability of detection afterward.

M: Well, again, I’m being honest with you here. You do realize why I’m writing all of this: the bottle, the scandal, the television, the detection. And our superiors tell us: explain to us why it was detected and how it ended up on the bottle, and we need to provide a concise explanation.

K: There was nothing on the bottle.

M: Great. So how did it end up on the bottle if it hadn't been there? Or was it just a hoax?

K: Well, in theory, it wasn't on the bottle, at least according to the information I have. For more specific, detailed questions, there's Stanislav Valentinovich... It's not really one-hundred-percent my area so...

M: This is what Bogdanov told me and gave me your number. My objective is to gather opinions from everyone. It’s not really about making any organizational conclusions. The question is how to ensure a desirable outcome in the future and to let our superiors – the man at the top – know what exactly happened. So please excuse me again for catching you unawares in the morning, but they are banging their fists on the table, yelling: give me a two-page report so that He understands everything. What shall I write on these two pages?

K: Am I the first person you're calling? Have you called anyone else?

M: I started with you, but I’ve got a list and I’m going to call everyone else shortly. In fact, I don't need you to tell me everything about everyone. I just need your personal perspective. What would you have done differently? Had you been the one planning this operation, how would you have run it?

K: Well, I can’t say off the top of my head. It would depend on the situation, on the circumstances. On the means available, or rather, not the means but possible locations. As I said, nuances abound, and each of them, every tiny little detail must be taken into account. In my opinion, everything was planned properly. Nothing could have been done differently. Had the planning gone wrong, no one would have attempted the operation. That's my perspective for you. As I said, they chose the right method, but there are always nuances.

M: Come again, what method was that?

K: Don’t you know?

M: Well, I know something, but that’s not the point. My job is to ask you; I’ve got a list of questions and I’m posing them to everyone.

K: I can't really tell you such things on this line.

M: The only reason why I’m calling you is that I need to get this paper ready asap.

K: You should use operative communications to call Stanislav Valentinovich. He might be able to give you the specifics. I can't go into that much detail on this line.

M: You’ve seen that I’m calling you through the switch. So you can tell me whatever you need. Bogdanov has signed off on our conversation.

K: It's just that no one called me about this yesterday, neither Bogdanov nor Makshakov.

M: The thing is, I only learned about this today when they woke me up at five a.m. I’ve been running around all morning, looking for all the phone numbers. If you prefer, I can call you back on the operative line in a bit. It’s just that you’ll save me a lot of time if you say it now. I have a list of 13 more people to call.

K: What did you say your name was? I’ll put it down.

M: Maxim Sergeevich Ustinov, the aide of Nikolai Platonovich Patrushev.

K: Mhm.

M: I still have a few questions. Where are the clothes? What happened to them?

K: What about the clothes?

M: Navalny’s clothes. Where are they?

K: Well, the last time I saw them was in Omsk. We left them there. We went there and did our job.

M: You went to Omsk on the 25th, right?

K: Give me a sec. Yeah, I think that's about right. I have all the notes at work.

M: What exactly happened to the clothes?

K: You mean their final location?

M: Yes.

K: Well, I have no idea where they might be, but I can say one thing. When we arrived, we got the clothes from the local guys who brought them to us with... what do you call them, traffic police. They gave us the box, and we processed it accordingly and gave it back to the locals. And the local director – I’ve got his number, you can have it if you like – got instructions from me to return the box. Most likely, he gave it to those guys, the traffic police.

M: Mhm. Can I please have the director's number?

K: 89620592595

M: What about his name and patronymic?

K: Mikhail Pavlovich. He’s chief...

M: Okay, I’ve got this, no worries. Let’s go back to the clothes. Was there anything on them? The box, or rather, what you found on its surface, what specifically did you do with it?

K: We went there twice. The first bag was regular, with stamps and all, and it was torn. There were some clothes, and they were sort of wet. By clothes, I mean a suit, underpants, socks, masks, and a teeshirt.

M: So what was your procedure, what did you do with the clothes, for the record?

K: Well, we treated them.

M: Using the Biysk methodology?

K: Biysk?

M: Well, correct me if I’m wrong.

K: No, no, I don’t know anything about the Biysk methodology. Or maybe I do, but I’m not sure what you mean by that.

M: What did you do specifically? Can you explain?

K: We applied solutions in order to... Ahhhh... how shall I put it? We treated them to remove all the traces, even the slightest ones.

M: Did you treat all of the clothes?

K: No, only some of them in the beginning. We started with the most important ones: the suit and the underpants. While we were out there, they brought us another box, and we treated everything once again just to be sure.

M: Is there a possibility that Navalny’s wife or somebody else at the hospital cut off a fragment of his clothes, and it ended up...

K: No.

M: There is no such possibility?

K: No. Everything was intact. No signs of cutting and so on.

M: In your opinion, how did the Germans find everything out?

K: Well, they engaged the Bundeswehr. They have military chemists there. They might have some detection methods.

M: Where on his body could they have detected the traces?

K: There was nothing on his body, and they didn’t find anything there. Most likely, they used bloodwork samples. I don't think anything could have been left on his body. That’s my assumption. They washed him back at the Russian hospital.

M: Who at the hospital in Omsk can confirm if his body was washed?

K: There is no information on that account. The man I mentioned, Mikhail, the chief of BT <The Insider's note: BT stands for the FSB's Counter-Terrorism Directorate>, has all the particulars about what was done there.

M: Great. I’m sorry if my next question sounds a bit naive, but judging by what I wrote down, they’ll want to know. You washed the clothes because there could have been traces of the chemical on them. It means there could have been traces on his body. But you just said there couldn’t. Why is that?

K: I think it gets absorbed fairly quickly. I don’t think it leaves any traces. Makshakov will give you more details because I don't have all the info. I don't even know what specifically they did. Well, I mean, you know what I mean, right?

M: I see, yes.

K: I don’t know. I don’t have the info. I was given a job. I went there, did it, and left. I don't have any details on who else went there to do anything else.

M: I’ll talk to all of them myself. What I want now is your opinion specifically. Let's summarize once again. The subject survived because the plane landed too soon. Is this the main reason?

K: I think it is. Had it taken a little longer, the outcome might have been different. See, it was a coincidence of multiple factors, which is the worst scenario in our line of business.

M: Got it. Let's go over the list of coinciding factors. Factor number one: the plane landed too soon. Factor number two: what's that?

K: The fact that the ambulance arrived and so on. They gave him first aid, as they normally do... Reduced the acidosis by injecting him with some sort of antidote. Presumably – presumably – this was what happened judging by the look of his symptoms. They were acting by the book, the paramedics, so the ambulance was another factor. Further on, he was taken to the hospital and was treated there according to his symptoms and all.

M: So here’s what I don’t understand, and judging by the questions from my superiors, they don’t either: was the initial plan for him to kick the bucket at the hotel or on the plane?

K: I don’t have the info.

M: But you did take the final location into account when planning, didn’t you?

K: If I knew, I’d tell you. I don't want to lie to you. I don't have and never had the information about how it was supposed to happen. I can only assume.

M: So go ahead and assume.

K: Well, I can’t make assumptions without knowing the entire plan of the operation. I get information on a need-to-know basis. Nothing extra. Building theories and making assumptions is no good, I suppose.

M: You’re probably right, but the task I have before me – apologies for repeating it once again – is to speak with everyone and write down each group member's opinion. In our line of business, as you rightly pointed out, everything comes down to chance, to the weirdest details. That’s why each opinion about what was right and what was wrong is crucial, and so is your take on the general picture. Because the repercussions of what went down – as you perfectly understand – will haunt us for a long time.

K: I understand, yes. I also watch television and read news online. I don't think we expected any of this to happen. I’m sure everything went south at some point.

M: Frankly, no, we didn't expect this, so we need to figure out what happened.

K: Well, I think it was supposed to happen shortly after, maybe even... Or maybe they expected him to board the plane because, as you know, it was a long flight, around three hours long. If the pilot hadn't landed the plane, the effect may have been different, and the same goes for the outcome. That is, I think that the landing was the decisive factor. Well, one of the factors was the combination of the emergency landing and the first aid.

M: How long did it take for him to pass out after the poisoning?

K: I don't have such data. I don't have the timeline for when it was done; that is, when they were finished. Makshakov will tell you for sure, or one of the guys might know.

M: I have another weird question for you. You’ve followed Navalny many times, including to Kirov in 2017. How would you assess his personality?

K: Whose? What do you mean, how I’d assess...

M: Well, that's why I said my question was weird.

K: On the one hand, he’s very careful, afraid of his own shadow. On the other, he travels everywhere and so on. He changes phone numbers regularly – he’s very cautious in this regard. That is, he must have felt something, he must have had a hunch because he was being followed and so on, as you understand. Hello?

M: Mhm, yeah, yeah, I’m with you, just writing everything down.

K: As he mentioned in his blog many times, he was under surveillance. That is, he is very cautious and meticulous, never making any excessive moves.

M: Could he have recognized any of the group members visually?

K: That’s highly unlikely, as we’re always super-cautious, changing clothes and all.

M: As far as I know, the group members were once on the same flight with him. Is that accurate?

K: Unfortunately, I don't know anything about it. Normally, we make sure to book a different flight. When the entire group flies out, we split the brigades between two flights... We always try to... I don't know how this may have happened. I don't have the info.

M: Are you saying you haven't heard of anything like that?

K: No, I haven’t.

M: So, on a scale of one to ten, how high is the probability that members of his team could have photographed or filmed any of you, even accidentally?

K: Well, considering our today's... there are cameras everywhere these days. But when we’re in the field, this data becomes classified anyway, as you understand. We only engage when field officers give us the green light and explain the situation. We assess it and inform them if we decide to engage. That is, we always eliminate the possibility of any visuals going on record. Clandestine security is our top priority. No one filmed us, and no one saw us if they weren't supposed to. We always make sure it doesn't happen.

M: How do you assess the field officers’ work?

K: The ones that participated? Well, I assess those I worked with positively.

M: Can I have their names and phone numbers?

K: Whose?

M: Your contacts I could discuss this with. I don't think I’ll need to contact them, but if my superiors ask me to, I need to be able to reach them quickly.

K: I don't think I remember all of them... There was Mikhail, whom I mentioned, but I don't remember any other guys because it’s been a while. 2017 wasn’t yesterday or half a year ago. I don't even store contact data for such jobs. I kept that one because I contacted him more than once, and we had a second trip there. The guys did all right, and we never had any organizational problems with supplies, support, or operational activities.

M: How many operations on Navalny did you run in total?

K: I don't remember the exact number. I remember going to Kirov, but that's it.

M: I’ve got operative data that they are preparing some sort of a media release. This might be the reason why I’ve been asked to reach out to everyone. Presumably, he suspects there may have been other attempts. What could he mean by that? What could Navalny know? He could say: “They tried to poison me this many times.” What proof could he have?

K: What thoughts could he have about all this?

M: Yes.

K: Well, I don’t know. I haven't heard about any other matters of this sort. Indeed, I’ve heard him mention something, some other attempts, but I have no idea what he was referring to. There might have been something, but I had no part in it.

M: You’ve been a real help. Just let me take a quick look at my papers again. So we’ve got an answer about the plane, the first aid, and your positive assessment of your colleagues’ performance. Please correct me as I go if I got something wrong. How do you assess Panyaev's work?

K: Who's that?

M: He worked in the field. Vladimir Alexandrovich Panyaev.

K: Panyaev...

M: Doesn't ring a bell?

K: No, never met him. The guys might have...

M: Okay, I’ll talk to Stanislav Valentinovich. Were the clothes treated? Is everything okay with them?

K: Well, the last time we returned them at least – yes, they were all clean.

M: We aren't going to have any surprises with the clothes, are we?

K: Well, that’s why we made multiple trips.

M: So your first trip was on August 25, and your second one?

K: A bit later, a couple of weeks, probably, or a week later.

M: Could you be more specific?

K: No, I can’t, unfortunately. Makshakov will know.

M: Okay. Who else was with you?

K: With me?

M: Yes.

K: Vasily Kalashnikov.

M: Kalashnikov...

K: But his name might not have been mentioned. Am I right?

M: I don't see him on the list... That's weird.

K: The chiefs probably didn’t think he...

M: Yeah... All right, I’ll double-check with Bogdanov. So you don’t think anything was left on his body?

K: I don't think so. I don’t know what they did. What specifically, I mean. Do you see what I mean? I don't know what was there, neither its properties nor penetration capacity. But if they did something about it, I don't think anything could have been left there.

M: Which item of clothing did you focus on? Which garment was especially risky?

K: The underpants.

M: The underpants.

K: Risky how?

M: I mean, which one could have had the highest concentration?

K: Well, the underpants.

M: The inner seam, the outer seam, adjacent to what? I have a group of questions on the subject, and I’ll bring them up with Makshakov, but I need your input too.

K: Well, we treated the inner seam. Performed the treatment, at least.

M: Say, we have a pair of underpants in front of us. Which part specifically...

K: Well, the inner part, the crotch.

M: The crotch of the underpants?

K: The so-called fly-front. There are seams there, you know, so we followed them...

M: Wait a sec, that's important to know... Who instructed you to treat the fly-front of the underpants?

K: We’re making assumptions here. We were told to pay special attention to the underpants, from the inside.

M: So who told you? Makshakov?

K: Yeah.

M: I’m writing it down. The inner seams of the underpants... Okay. So the underpants were gray, correct?

K: Dark blue. But I’m not sure, so you should double-check with him.

M: Are they intact? In theory, could you return them to the owner? We aren't going to, but they’re intact and in good condition, right?

K: Yes, all clear.

M: Are there any visual signs of the treatment, like fading or spots?

K: No, no, there’s nothing there. They’re clean and in good condition.

M: What about the pants?

K: The same inner area. There might have been something there, so we washed it. But that’s just an assumption considering the underpants contacted the pants in this area, so something might have been left. We treated the pants too. They are also clean, without any damage.

M: Had it been a mistake, or had it been the right call to use the contact method of exposure?

K: Well, it's not up to me.

M: What’s your opinion?

K: The higher-ups made the call, so it was probably the right thing to do. The method is solid.

M: Well, considering that he survived, it’s not too solid after all. Don’t get me wrong here...

K: Well, as I said, there were many factors, many circumstances in this situation. Contact exposure ensures good penetration. The choice of method must have been determined by the situation and their experience.

M: So we covered this question, and that one too. Is there anything you’d like to add, anything material I should mention in my report?

K: Not really. I think this must be it. You already have a lot of information. Who else are you going to call, if I may ask?

M: It’s no secret, but I’ll greatly appreciate it if you don’t give them a heads up because I need their independent opinions. As you understand, I don’t need you to coordinate your responses.

K: Well, see, I’m the first one, and no one called me – neither Bogdanov nor Makshakov – and frankly speaking, I’m taken aback by all these questions of yours, as you may see.

M: We all are, Konstantin Borisovich. Can you imagine how taken aback I was? I don’t know the first thing about any of this, and I got a call at five a.m. saying I had to go out there and find everything out. So here I am, calling you with a bunch of stupid questions. I know very little about it in general, but that’s my job: I get a phone call and do as I’m told. I’ll be calling your colleagues shortly, and I’ll be very grateful if you refrain from sharing the details with them for a while for their accounts to be somewhat more...

K: I’m not going to share any details, but I’ll call Makshakov now, to see if he’s aware of this...

M: He’s aware of it, of course. I called Makshakov in the morning, and he’s the one who actually... I spoke to Bogdanov and Makshakov early in the morning.

K: So was it Bogdanov who gave you my name?

M: Yes, sure.

K: Do you have a phone number I could use to contact you?

M: I sure do. 89169122487. Maxim Sergeevich.

K: I’ve written it down.

M: If I need to clarify anything, I might call you again in the next couple of hours, so could you please stay within reach?

K: Yes, I’m always within reach, day and night. It's a habit. I always have my phone on me, even in the toilet and bathroom.

M: I get it, I get it. But there’s something I still don’t get. Did they apply it to the underpants or both the underpants and the pants? Because my information on this aspect is ambiguous, and I can't figure it out.

K: Makshakov will tell you for sure.

M: Well, I’m sure they will, but I’d like to hear it from you.

K: I don’t know. We worked with both the underpants and the pants, looking for spots or something of the sort. There weren’t any visible spots on the underpants. On the pants, there was nothing either because they were thick, fleece pants. Nothing sticks to them. All the more so considering both items were dark. So we looked where they’d told us to look. There weren’t any visible traces.

M: All right, I see, thanks a lot, Konstantin Borisovich, we’ll be in touch. I’ll call you in a bit.

K: Are we done here?

M: Yeah, yeah.

K: My question is, was it okay to discuss such things on the regular phone?

M: We didn't really discuss anything incriminating. It’s an emergency, and I don’t think any harm will come out of it. I okayed it with Bogdanov that I was going to use a regular phone.

K: Oh, so he okayed it, right?

M: Yeah, yeah.

K: Talk to you later then.

M: Good luck, bye.

Alexei Navalny's conversation with Mikhail Evdokimov (the chief of the FSB's Counter-Terrorism Directorate in Omsk).

M: Hello, is that Mikhail Pavlovich?

P: Hello?

M: Mikhail Pavlovich?

P: You must have gotten the wrong number.

M: *Reads out the phone number*

P: Correct, but it's Mikhail Valeryevich.

M: My apologies. Konstantin Borisovich Kudryavtsev gave me your number and patronymic.

P: Do you have my other number? I’m on my cell phone.

M: I okayed this call with Vladimir Mikhailovich Bogdanov. My name is Maxim Sergeevich Ustinov. I’m the aide of Nikolai Platonovich Patrushev.

P: Pleasure to meet you. Do you have a secure line for us to speak confidentially? Because we’re using an open line now. Sorry, but I don't think we’ve met.

M: That’s correct. I okayed this call on an open line with Bogdanov, and Patrushev asked me to find everything out asap because our superiors want yet another report, and as you know, the deadline is always “right now”. As I understand, they’ll have you draw up a report a bit later, and I just need three paragraphs from you for my report, which will be submitted to you know who. I just spoke to Kudryavtsev about his two visits, and there are a couple of vital questions that I need to clarify. So that we can be sure that Navalny’s... Are you sure his body was washed properly before his departure?

P: Don't you have a secure operative line?

M: Right now, no, I don't. That's why I said Bogdanov had okayed this conversation on an open line. As you may see, I’m using the switch. I’m not calling you from a cell phone.

P: I can see that, but bear with me here: we haven’t met before.

M: I understand, but it’s eight in the morning in Moscow, and I’ve been on the phone since five. So no, I don't have access to a secure line, but I’m not asking anything incriminating. Bogdanov has signed off on this call. Can I have three minutes of your time?

P: Okay, all right.

M: Look, I have different questions for different people. What I need to hear from you is how certain you are that his body was thoroughly washed before departure and who did it.

P: Washed?

M: Well, Kudryavtsev and I discussed the clothes. You were the one who submitted the clothes to him for treatment, weren't you?

P: Let’s switch to a secure line. I insist.

M: It takes time, while Patrushev is standing behind my back, demanding the report asap. I don't even need to specify who the report is meant for. I think we both know it perfectly well. I just need answers to a few simple questions.

P: You know, I just really, honestly... Is there a chance you could cover all the questions with Kudryavtsev?

M: I just spent forty minutes on the phone with him. Kudryavtsev tells me there is no need to worry about the clothes. And that you're the one to talk to about Navalny's body.

P: I can't explain anything at all about the body.

M: Okay, but do you know anyone who can?

P: You’d have to speak to the BSMP. <The Insider’s note: the Russian abbreviation stands for “emergency care hospital”.>

M: So who’s your contact at the BSMP? Kudryavtsev tells me the body was washed properly, and that we had a guarantee that nothing would be detected when he was transferred there [to Germany]. Nevertheless, it appears that they have detected something on the body. So my superiors tell me: “Maxim, go ahead and find out.” Please forgive me for this weird phone call, but bear with me here. Who should I speak to at the BSMP? Who washed him?

P: Well, you know, I wasn’t there for the washing – only the doctors were. Healthcare personnel and, as far as I know, his spouse visited him twice. I can’t tell you what procedures were performed.

M: Do you think his spouse could have cut off a fragment of his clothes?

P: I can’t give you the answer to that question. I wasn’t there.

M: The clothes that you gave to Kudryavtsev. Were they visually intact?

P: Yes. You’d better ask Kudryavtsev. They saw the clothes, so he’s the one to answer that.

M: Where are the clothes now?

P: As far as I know, the traffic police have them.

M: So who has access to them?

P: Police officers.

M: To what extent do the police officers understand... That is...

P: Let me call you back Maxim. What we’re doing here is making me very uneasy.

M: Okay, thanks.

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