Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny has asked the country's lead domestic spy agency to launch an investigation after state television accused him of serving as a secret operative for the West.
Navalny said on April 13 that he was formally asking the Federal Security Service (FSB) to confiscate and examine the validity of documents shown on air by Rossia-1 television that the network calls evidence that he is a paid agent of U.S. and British intelligence.
Navalny, his supporters, and opposition-minded media outlets have ridiculed the purported evidence previewed by state media boss and television host Dmitry Kiselyov on April 9 and set to be detailed in a full "expose" slated to be broadcast by Rossia-1 on the evening of April 13.
They note that the documents that Rossia-1 claims were leaked from Britain's MI6 spy agency and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) are riddled with clumsy English syntax and grammatical mistakes, and that voices heard on Navalny's purportedly tapped phone sound nothing like the Kremlin foe.
"Let [the FSB] take all of these 'CIA documents' and the recording of 'Navalny's conversation' from Kiselyov," Navalny wrote on his website.
He posted a scan of his letter to the FSB, dated April 13, in which he appeals to agency chief Aleksandr Bortnikov to "take the necessary measures to confiscate secret materials and examine their veracity."
Navalny previously described the allegations as "pure fantasy" and said that he planned to file a defamation suit. He added that the report on his alleged links to Western intelligence took the state-media campaign against President Vladimir Putin's opponents to "new heights."
The 15-minute preview of the report, aired on Kiselyov's weekly current events show Vesti Nedeli, claimed that Navalny was recruited to work for British intelligence by William Browder, a onetime prominent investor in Russia who has since become a vocal Kremlin enemy.
Navalny is an anticorruption crusader who is currently serving two suspended sentences on financial-crimes charges that rights groups and Kremlin critics say were retribution for his activism.
Russian Prosecutor-General Yury Chaika in December accused the U.S.-born Browder and Western "secret services" of being behind a film produced by Navalny's anticorruption foundation film that accused the official and his family of corruption.