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Investigative Groups Link Poisoning Of Russian Writer Bykov With FSB Agents Suspected In Navalny Case

Dmitry Bykov

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 June 9, 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 June 9, 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.

Navalny, who is currently in prison, was arrested in January upon his arrival from Germany, where he was treated after the poisoning with what was confirmed by European labs as Novichok.

Navalny has accused Putin of ordering the poisoning, which the Kremlin has denied.

A Moscow court in February converted a 3 1/2-year suspended sentence on a charge that Navalny and his supporters call politically motivated to real jail time saying he broke the terms of the original sentence by leaving Russia for Germany for the life-saving treatment he received.

The court reduced the time Navalny must spend in prison to just over 2 1/2 years because of time already served in detention.

Kara-Murza has said he was twice poisoned deliberately in Moscow in 2015 and 2017 due to his lobbying for U.S. sanctions against Russian officials allegedly involved in rights abuses.

In both cases, his Russian doctors indicated he suffered from the toxic effects of an "unidentified substance."

In February, Bellingcat said in a report that the FSB's hit squad had followed and surveilled Kara-Murza while he was traveling in Russia in May 2015 and February 2017, alleging that among the security agents was one linked to the poisoning of Navalny.

Dobrokhotov told Current Time that The Insider and Bellingcat are currently studying other strange illnesses of well-known persons in Russia and the travels of FSB officers implicated in poisoning Navalny.