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Aides who accompanied Navalny in Tomsk have many questions to answer — investigation

According to the deputy director of the Investigative Department, the blogger's team refuse to testify
A view of Xander Hotel in Tomsk where Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny stayed before the poisoning incident  Taisia Vorontsova/TASS
A view of Xander Hotel in Tomsk where Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny stayed before the poisoning incident
© Taisia Vorontsova/TASS

MOSCOW, October 8. /TASS/. The Russian Interior Ministry still has many questions to ask staffers of the Anti-Corruption Foundation (ACF) who accompanied Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny on his trip to Tomsk, the Russian Interior Ministry’s Deputy Director of the Investigative Department of the Transport Department for the Siberian Federal District Sergei Potapov told reporters.

"The employees of the Anti-Corruption Foundation and other people who accompanied Navalny during the trip still have many questions to answer. The investigation is clarifying what exactly they did in Navalny’s hotel room, why they removed objects that could have been classified as evidence in the probe (including water bottles) and how they transported them," he said.

According to Potapov, police officers are yet to get answers to these questions from these people as they refuse to testify.

Moreover, the investigation is trying to find out the location of Maria Pevchikh who permanently lives in the UK. On August 22, she refused to be questioned and left Omsk for Germany.

Water bottles with 'poison'

Airport services did not find any water bottles allegedly carried by Maria Pevchikh, who accompanied Alexey Navalny, Sergei Potapov told reporters.

"Some information emerged in the media that these objects (bottles containing water) were transported by car and plane from Tomsk to Germany. At the same time, the investigative agencies objectively found out that Maria Pevchikh together with Georgy Alburov, after Navalny’s hospitalization, travelled from Tomsk to Novosibirsk by car and then to Omsk by plane. As Maria Pevchikh went through pre-flight checks in Tolmachevo Airport (Novosibirsk), her suitcase and backpack did not have any liquid containers of over 100 ml, including any bottles of water," he said.

Earlier, Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation said that they had managed to get to his hotel room in Tomsk, after the opposition figure became ill aboard the plane, and recover water bottles from there. Pevchikh allegedly took one of them to Germany, whose experts said this week that the bottle did contain traces of a toxic substance.

Alexey Navalny was rushed to a local hospital in the Siberian city of Omsk on August 20 after collapsing on a Moscow-bound flight from Tomsk. He fell into a coma and was put on a ventilator in an intensive care unit. On August 22, he was airlifted to Berlin and admitted to the Charite hospital.

On September 2, Berlin claimed that having examined Navalny’s test samples, German government toxicologists had come to the conclusion that the blogger had been affected by a toxic agent belonging to the Novichok family.

Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia was ready for comprehensive cooperation with Germany. He pointed out that no poisonous substances had been detected in Navalny’s system prior to his transfer to Berlin.

On October 6, the OPCW confirmed that biomarkers of the cholinesterase inhibitor found in Navalny’s blood and urine samples have similar structural characteristics as the toxic chemicals added to the Chemical Weapons Convention’s Annex on Chemicals in November 2019. At the same time, this cholinesterase inhibitor is not listed in the Annex on Chemicals to the Convention.