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Photo: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Thursday accused President Vladimir Putin of orchestrating his poisoning with the nerve agent Novichok, a calling card of the Russian security services.

Driving the news: In his first interview since being released from a German hospital, where he was kept in a medically induced coma for weeks, Navalny told Der Spiegel that German Chancellor Angela Merkel paid him a personal visit last week.

  • "I know it sounds a bit over the top, but Germany has become a special country for me," Navalny said, thanking German politicians and doctors for saving his life.
  • "I was impressed by the detail [Merkel] knows about Russia and my case."

The big picture: Navalny's poisoning with Novichok, which was used in the attempted assassination in 2018 of former double agent Sergei Skripal in the U.K., has been confirmed by specialist labs in France and Sweden, in addition to Germany.

  • "I assert that Putin was behind the crime, and I have no other explanation for what happened," Navalny told Der Spiegel, adding that he plans to return to Russia.
  • "And my job now is to remain the guy who isn’t afraid. And I’m not afraid! When my hands shake, it’s not from fear – it’s from this stuff. I would not give Putin the gift of not returning to Russia."

Russia has vehemently denied any culpability for the attack, with Putin reportedly suggesting in a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron that Navalny poisoned himself.

What to watch: European leaders have demanded that Putin provide an explanation and plan to discuss the matter at a European Council meeting on Thursday and Friday.

  • “This is very clearly a murder attempt carried out on Russian soil, against a Russian opposition leader with a chemical agent manipulated in Russia,” Macron told reporters this week. "It is therefore up to Russia to provide clarifications."
  • But the European Union's failure to impose sanctions on Belarus over its rigged election, following objections from Cyprus over an unrelated matter, has some expressing doubt that the bloc will be able to cobble together the unanimity required to penalize Putin.

Go deeper: Putin, poison and the pipeline

Go deeper

Jan 27, 2021 - World

At Davos, Putin points to U.S. to warn Big Tech is driving social divisions

Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin told the virtual “Davos Agenda” conference on Wednesday that recent events in the U.S. had underscored the danger of “public discontent” combined with “modern technology.”

The big picture: Putin, a late addition to the speakers' list, is facing protests at home over the arrest of opposition figure Alexey Navalny. Several experts and activists criticized the World Economic Forum for inviting him, with chess champion and Kremlin critic Garry Kasparov tweeting that Putin’s appearance showed he was “desperate to reassure his cronies he's still acceptable in the West despite his brutal crackdown.”

Updated 53 mins ago - World

Trudeau's government projected to win Canada election

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Photo: Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal government has been reelected in the national election, the CBC and CTV News projected on Monday night.

By the numbers: The Liberal Party needs to win 170 seats in the 338-seat House of Commons to form a majority government. Preliminary figures show the party ahead with 156 seats at midnight ET, with nearly 66% of polling stations reporting.

Pelosi's back-to-school math problem

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) may need votes from an unlikely source — the Republican Party — if she hopes to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill by next Monday, as she's promised Democratic centrists.

Why it matters: With at least 20 progressives threatening to vote against the $1.2 trillion bipartisan bill, centrist members are banking on more than 10 Republicans to approve the bill.