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From a December 2020 telephone conversation between Konstantin Borisovich Kudryavtsev, an FSB agent, and Alexei Navalny, a Russian opposition leader whom Kudryavtsev attempted to assassinate on an airplane in August by applying a nerve agent to his underwear. On the call, Navalny impersonated a senior security official. The transcript was published by the open-source investigations site Bellingcat.

konstantin borisovich kudryavtsev: Hello?

alexei navalny: Konstantin Borisovich?

kudryavtsev: Yes, yes!

navalny: This is Ustinov Maxim Sergeevich. I apologize for the early hour, but I urgently require ten minutes of your time.

kudryavtsev: All right.

navalny: I am doing a report, which will be discussed by the Security Council at the most senior level. I need a single paragraph from every unit member. Why was the Navalny operation in Tomsk a complete failure?

kudryavtsev: I have been wondering myself.

navalny: I am interested in your opinion.

kudryavtsev: Well, in our profession—you know this yourself—there are a lot of nuances.

navalny: What?

kudryavtsev: If he had been in the air for longer, and they did not land in such an abrupt way, possibly, things would have not gone the way they did. Meaning, if the medics did not aid him, if there was no ambulance at the airport, and so on.

navalny: Perhaps the dosage was not correctly estimated?

kudryavtsev: Well, I can’t say that.

navalny: Let us then turn to the specific technique: How was the substance administered? Do you think an appropriate method was selected?

kudryavtsev: This should be communicated via a secure channel.

navalny: Do you understand who will read this report? On this level there is no place for operative channels. People are not concerned with details—I must explain briefly how things transpired, and I want to do it correctly.

kudryavtsev: How what transpired?

navalny: How the substance was administered.

kudryavtsev: Well, the fact is that the location was perhaps—how can I say it—the place they put it, there might have been a possibility for detection, subsequently.

navalny: Which garment posed the highest risk factor?

kudryavtsev: A risk factor in what sense?

navalny: Where the concentration was the highest.

kudryavtsev: Well, the underpants.

navalny: Do you mean the inner side or the outer side? I have an entire questionnaire about this. I require your knowledge.

kudryavtsev: Well, we were processing the inner side.

navalny: Imagine some underpants in front of you, which part did you process?

kudryavtsev: Where the crotch is.

navalny: The crotch?

kudryavtsev: Well, the codpiece, as they call it.

navalny: Wait, this is important. Who gave you the order to process the codpiece?

kudryavtsev: We figured this out on our own.

navalny: I am writing it down. Okay. The gray-colored underwear, do you remember?

kudryavtsev: Blue.

navalny: And they are whole, I mean theoretically we could give them back? They are undamaged and everything is okay with them?

kudryavtsev: Yes, all is clear.

navalny: Visually, nothing would be discovered? There are no spots, nothing?

kudryavtsev: No, no. Everything is fine, they are in good condition, clean.

navalny: Do you want to add something you think may be of importance to my report?

kudryavtsev: Oh no, I think this was probably enough. Even too much.

navalny: If I need more details, I may call you again in a couple of hours. So please stay close to your phone, all right?

kudryavtsev: Yes, I am always available, day or night. I have this habit, I bring my phone everywhere—even to the toilet.

navalny: I understand, I understand.

kudryavtsev: May I ask you: There is no problem, discussing this over an unsecured line?

navalny: This is an extraordinary situation.


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March 2021