The following article is from my colleague, Paul Roderick Gregory, in The Hill
Vladimir Putin is a notorious risk-taker. Many of his ventures have paid off for him, but did his luck run out when a suspected plot to take out opposition leader Aleksei Navalny veered wildly off course? Instead of being pronounced dead from “natural causes” upon arriving on a flight to Moscow, as was purportedly planned, Navalny lies in a coma in a Berlin hospital, full of a poison accessible only to the Russian military and its Kremlin-successor security service, the FSB.
Here was Putin’s original plan, as pieced together by Navalny’s team:
Navalny’s political organizing in Russia’s Far East and the Belarus periphery was threatening to create a real opposition force in Russia’s parliament and regional governorships. Out of this concern, the Kremlin allegedly charged the FSB with poisoning Navalny in Tomsk shortly before his five-hour flight to Moscow. Most likely, Navalny ingested the poison; otherwise his travel companions would also have been exposed, too. Navalny was supposed to die en route. This appears not to be an attempt to frighten but an intent to murder.
The plan went awry when the airliner’s pilot made an emergency landing in Omsk, ignoring a reported bomb threat. Once Navalny was hospitalized in Omsk, foreign leaders raised concerns about his safety. Under intense pressure, FSB officers (reportedly dressed as civilians) allowed Navalny to be flown to Berlin, where German doctors detected poisoning with Novichok – a deadly nerve agent used by Russian agents in other poisonings.
Putin widely touts his “power vertical.” By this, he means the extreme concentration of authority under his genial guidance. The “power vertical” rules out maverick forces that, say, might poison a prominent opposition figure without approval from the vertical’s top gun. In Putin’s power vertical, access to the world’s deadliest poisons, like Novichok, could be granted only by the person at the top.