Putin probably didn’t order Alexei Navalny’s killing, US intelligence agencies believe

Woman lays flows at grave of Alexei Navalny (AP)
Woman lays flows at grave of Alexei Navalny (AP)

US intelligence agencies have determined that Vladimir Putin probably didn’t order opposition politician Alexei Navalny’s killing at an Arctic prison camp in February, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday.

Navalny, 47, was Russian President Putin’s fiercest domestic critic.

His allies, branded extremists by the authorities, accused arch foe Putin of having him murdered and said they will provide proof to back their allegation.

The Kremlin has denied any state involvement.

Last month, Putin called Navalny’s demise “sad” and said he had been ready to hand the jailed politician over to the West in a prisoner exchange provided Navalny never return to Russia. Navalny’s allies said such talks had been under way.

The Journal, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter, added Washington had not absolved the Russian leader of overall responsibility for Navalny’s death.

He had been targeted by the Kremlin for years, jailed on charges the West said were politically motivated and had been poisoned in 2020 with a nerve agent.

Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he had seen the Journal’s report, which contained “empty speculation”.

“I’ve seen the material, I wouldn’t say it’s high quality material that deserves attention,” Peskov told reporters when asked about the matter.

The Journal report could not be independently verified but it cited sources as saying the finding had been “broadly accepted within the intelligence community and shared by several agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the State Department’s intelligence unit”.

The US assessment was based on a range of information, including some classified intelligence, and an analysis of public facts, including the timing of Navalny’s death and how it overshadowed Putin’s re-election in March.

Leonid Volkov, a senior Navalny aide, called the US findings naive and ridiculous.