Putin says critic's near-fatal poisoning no reason to open criminal probe

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his top critic Alexei Navalny’s near-death poisoning is not a reason to open a criminal probe.

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Germany, France and Britain have accused Russian authorities of “involvement and responsibility” in the poisoning of Kremlin critic Navalny with Novichok, a Soviet-designed nerve agent.

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied responsibility and some top officials suggested that the top Russian opposition leader might have been poisoned in Germany where he was taken for treatment after falling violently ill in Siberia in August.

“If a person nearly dies this does not mean that it’s necessary to open a criminal probe at any given opportunity,” Putin said at a meeting of rights experts, according to the Kremlin transcript released on Friday.

Prominent journalist Nikolai Svanidze, who raised the issue with Putin, said: “But the man nearly died.”

“I understand,” Putin replied.

Taking to Twitter, Navalny said: “Simply incredible.”

The Russian president said Russian officials were looking into the incident and reiterated that the West refused to cooperate with Russia over the high-profile case, refusing again to mention his critic Navalny by name.

“There are no official materials,” Putin said at the meeting that took place on Thursday. “What should we do?”

“Show us where this ‘Novichok’ is,” he added.

“We will investigate this case with pleasure, and very thoroughly too.”

Navalny, 44, has directly accused Putin of being behind his poisoning and vowed to return to Russia to press on with his opposition campaign.

He is recovering in Germany after treatment in a Berlin hospital.

His case has increased tensions between Moscow and European capitals, especially Berlin.

The EU has imposed entry bans and bank account freezes on six people suspected of being responsible, including the head of Russia’s FSB intelligence agency.

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