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The Kremlin has mocked Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader, for his claim that he managed to speak to one of the men allegedly involved in a botched plot to kill him earlier this year, saying he has a "Freudian fixation on his own crotch area."
Mr Navalny, who spent weeks in a coma after a nerve agent poisoning, on Monday released a bombshell 49-minute-long phone conversation with one of the suspected Russian intelligence agents involved in the August attempt on his life.
The man, who apparently thought he was talking to a senior intelligence official, was heard detailing the operation to Mr Navalny and confessing that the FSB was out to kill him.
Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, told reporters on Tuesday that he was speaking in a personal capacity but felt it necessary to say that the politician, in his opinion, “has a pronounced persecutory delusion.” “You can also clearly identify certain signs of megalomania,” he said.
Mr Peskov also referred to the part of the phone call where the alleged agent tells Mr Navalny at length about his blue underpants smeared with the nerve agent, describing the remarks as a "Freudian fixation on his own crotch and all that."
The hapless agent spoke at length about the operation only to ask Mr Navalny, who posed as an aide to FSB chief Nikolay Patrushev, at the end of the conversation if it was okay to talk over an unsecured phone line.
The man identified as Konstantin Kudryavtsev became an instant butt of jokes, and his revelation that the Novichok nerve agent was smeared on Mr Navalny’s underpants gave rise to countless internet memes.
Asked whether the phone call gives grounds to doubt the competence of the Russian intelligence community, Mr Peskov insisted on Tuesday that the FSB was “very efficient” in its job defending national security.
Mr Navalny, who rose to prominence thanks to his investigations into official corruption, fell suddenly ill on a plane from Siberia to Moscow in August.
He was airlifted to Germany where several independent laboratories confirmed that he was poisoned with the military-grade nerve agent Novichok.
The top Kremlin foe called the suspected agent last week just before independent investigative group Bellingcat released a bombshell investigation which identified FSB agents including Mr Kudryavtsev who were trailing Mr Navalny for days before he was poisoned.
Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, last confirmed last week that FSB agents had indeed been trailing Mr Navalny, as a precaution, but insisted that no one was going to kill him.
The staggering video showing Mr Navalny speaking to the alleged agent on the phone garnered over 12 million views in 24 hours and prompted pro-democracy activists in several Russia cities to picket local FSB branches.
A celebrated Russian documentary filmmaker was detained on Tuesday afternoon as he stood outside the FSB headquarters in central Moscow, holding a pair of underpants.