If I told you a story that involved a botched assassination by secret Russian agents, underpants, Siberia, and a confession wrangled by the victim himself in a prank call, you would accuse me of plagiarizing every Rocky and Bullwinkle episode that ever aired.
But no, dear readers, what I am about to tell you is true. And it all happened this year.
You may have read the news coverage of the mysterious assassination attempt on Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, who fell ill on a flight originating in Tomsk, a city known as “the student capital of Russia” but also smack in the middle of Siberia. The flight was headed to Moscow. Had the flight made it to its destination, Navalny certainly would have died. His symptoms on the flight grew so serious, though, the flight diverted to Omsk, where he received life-saving emergency treatment from paramedics and was able to escape the country and recover in Germany.
In Germany, medical and toxin experts determined that Navalny was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok, a chemical weapon produced by the Soviet, and now Russian, state for decades. Navlany has been a critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin for years, both campaigning against his political party and repeatedly exposing government corruption at the highest levels. Navalny continues to recover from his poisoning from a secret location in Germany.
Putin himself confirmed on December 17 that Russian “special services” have been tailing Navalny, but if they wanted to kill him they “would have finished it.” His statement was in response to a report released on the 14th by the investigative group Bellingcat and CNN.
Here’s where it gets awesome. With Bellingcat and CNN’s (CNN! Chicken Noodle News! CNN hasn’t broken real news in this century!) help, Navalny was able to identify the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) agent who poisoned him, Konstantin Kudryavtsev. So here’s what Navalny did. He masked his phone number like a telemarketer to make look like it came from FSB HQ and called Kudryavtsev and pretended to be the agent’s boss’ boss, assuring him that “all of this will be discussed at the Security Council on the highest level.” On an unsecure line. And the agent totally fell for it.
So it pretty much went like this:
Navalny: “How did you try to kill Navalny (me)?”
Navalny: “Where exactly was the Novichok applied? The inside or the outside seams?”
Kudryavtsev: “I was told precisely to work with the underpants, on the inside.”
And Navalny held it together without laughing for 45 minutes on the call. Perhaps, though, “underpants” is not the funniest word in the world in Russian. Also, when they are your underpants, and they are filled with Novichok, and you sit on a plane in them, perhaps they become less funny. To me, however, a Novichok-in-the-underpants confession to your own victim pretending to be your boss’ boss is HILARIOUS.
A wonderful article from the September 2017 issue of Smithsonian Magazine has been recirculating on Facebook: “How Bullwinkle Taught Kids Sophisticated Political Satire.” I loved Rocky and Bullwinkle, especially the ever-bumbling Russian spies, Boris and Natasha. Can’t you just see Konstantin slinking home after watching the CNN story where he learns, with the rest of the world, that he just confessed to his victim, and being comforted by a six-foot brunette in a strapless purple cocktail dress? It’s what any hardworking no-gudnik deserves after a long day of failed plotting.
Merry Christmas, everyone.
Merritt Hamilton Allen is a PR executive and a former Navy officer. She lives amicably with her Democratic husband and Republican mother north of I-40 where they run two head of dog, and two of cat. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.