Cloak & daggerPoisoning of Russian Writer Bykov Linked with FSB Agents Suspected in Navalny Case

Published 10 June 2021

Investigative journalists say a detailed investigation shows Russian writer and poet Dmitry Bykov, a critic of the government, suffered a poisoning attack two years ago at the hands of the same agents suspected of being involved in the poisoning of opposition figures Aleksei Navalny and Vladimir Kara-Murza Jr.

Independent investigative groups Bellingcat and The Insider say a detailed investigation shows Russian writer and poet Dmitry Bykov, a critic of the government, suffered a poisoning attack two years ago at the hands of the same agents suspected of being involved in the poisoning of opposition figures Aleksei Navalny and Vladimir Kara-Murza Jr.

In a report released on 9 June, the groups said they had identified “significant correlations” between the travels of members of a Federal Security Service (FSB) squad and the previously unexplained poisonings or deaths of several other public figures, including the twice near-fatal poisoning of outspoken the opposition politician Kara-Murza.

Other likely targets, they said, included two human rights activists in the Caucasus as well as an anti-corruption activist.

Bykov is an outspoken critic of the Russian government and twice refused personal invitations to meet with President Vladimir Putin as part of the president’s regular sit-downs with representatives of Russia’s cultural elite.

The case of Dmitry Bykov’s presumed poisoning bears a striking resemblance to that of Aleksei Navalny, including an extended FSB tailing period, presence of the same FSB officers near the victim shortly before the poisoning, an onset of symptoms and collapse into a coma during a flight, and an initial obstruction by authorities to the victim’s relocation to a more sophisticated medical establishment,” the report says.

In April 2019, Bykov, who has opposed Russia’s seizure of Crimea and its intervention in eastern Ukraine, fell ill aboard a plane en route from Yekaterinburg to Ufa.

After landing in Ufa, Bykov was rushed to a hospital, where he was treated for an extended period. The diagnosis has never been officially announced but Bykov has said that he was poisoned.

The chief editor of The Insider, Roman Dobrokhotov, told Current Time on 9 June, that his group and Bellingcat had discovered that the FSB had imposed constant surveillance on Bykov at least a year before his poisoning.

According to Dobrokhotov, the poison was most likely put on the writer’s clothes while he was staying at the Domina Hotel in Novosibirsk on a trip with his wife.

Bellingcat and The Insider started investigating Bykov’s poisoning after they followed the travels of FSB officers believed to be involved in the poisoning of Navalny with the Novichok nerve agent in Siberia in August 2020.

One of the officers implicated in the Navalny affair, Konstantin Kudryavtsev, described the details of a state operation to poison Navalny in a phone conversation with the Kremlin critic in December.

Navalny made the 49-minute conversation, in which he posed as an FSB official conducting an internal review, public.

This article is reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).

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