How Putin tried to kill arch-rival, Alexei Navalny, by poisoning his PANTS

DESPITE being poisoned then sent to a modern-day gulag, Vladimir Putin’s arch-critic will not be silenced.

Hours before he was due in court this week, Alexei Navalny revealed that a £500million superyacht moored off Italy was secretly owned by the Russian tyrant.

Vladimir Putin will never silence his arch-critic Alexei Navalny

In 2020, Kremlin spies smeared nerve agent Novichok in Navalny's boxer shorts, almost killing him

In 2020, Kremlin spies smeared nerve agent Novichok in Navalny’s boxer shorts, almost killing him

It was a typically bold move by Navalny, who has every reason to fear the unhinged warmonger. In 2020, Kremlin spies smeared nerve agent Novichok in his boxer shorts, almost killing him.

The revelation that Putin was the likely owner of bling yacht Scheherazade came in a video by Navalny’s investigators, who found it was crewed largely by members of Russia’s elite secret service, the FSO.

On Tuesday, Navalny — already serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence — was given a further nine years — in a “strict regime penal colony”.

The following day, The Sun ran exclusive pictures from inside Scheherazade — an obscene monument to a kleptocrat’s excess. Over six decks, the opulence includes golden toilet-roll holders and a tiled dancefloor that lowers to become a swimming pool.

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Navalny’s Twitter account, run by aides, later retweeted our front page — with its headline Gold-Plated Monster — to his 2.8million followers.

While Putin’s troops shell pregnant women and children in the rubble of Mariupol, he stamps out opposition at home.

Dad-of-two Navalny, 45, was “convicted” last month on trumped-up charges that he stole £3.5million of donations from his political organisations.

Looking gaunt, he folded his arms in disdain as his nine-year sentence was handed down. His wife Yulia Navalnaya, 45, later wrote on Instagram: “The number nine means nothing at all.

“I love you, my dearest person in the world, and I have not ceased to be proud of you for many, many years.”

Navalny urged Russians to rise up against their tyrannical president, tweeting: “This toad sitting on an oil pipe will not overthrow itself.”

Despite Navalny’s sham trial, his right-hand man Vladimir Ashurkov, 50, told The Sun the activist remains “belligerent”.

The executive director of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) also described the grim penal colony where Navalny shares a cell with up to 50 other prisoners.

Ashurkov said the food is “appalling” and Navalny is subjected to a “form of psychological torture”. The activist explained: “Inmates have been handpicked by the prison authority and been instructed not to speak to Navalny. It’s a sort of solitary confinement.”

Navalny is allowed to see his lawyer for an hour a day, when he is able to “scribble notes which he can pass on to his team and his family”.

Ashurkov added: “No phones are allowed and to get to the meeting room where he sees the lawyer, he is strip-searched on the way in and out.”

Yet Navalny is far from broken, and Putin has surely never faced an adver-sary with such moral conviction.

He was born in the village of Butyn, just over 30 miles west of Moscow, and his Ukrainian-born dad and Russian mum own a basket-weaving factory.

The law graduate rose to prominence when he started writing blogs about rampant corruption and garish wealth among Russia’s elite.

This toad sitting on an oil pipe will not overthrow itself.

Alexei Navalny on Vladimir Putin

FBK founder Navalny’s 2011 description of Putin’s United Russia as “the party of crooks and thieves” became an opposition rallying cry.

The state made efforts to silence him. He received suspended sentences on two  embezzlement charges, which was widely seen as a  move to stop him from running in national    elections.

Navalny met wife Yulia, a former bank worker, on a Turkish beach 24 years ago. They and their two children lived in a Moscow flat under heavy state surveillance.

Yulia once said: “Our family has for many years lived in a way where searches, arrests and threats are commonplace.” Navalny continued leading street protests but in 2017 was barred from challenging Putin in elections because of his fraud conviction.

A Russian general threatened in 2018 to “make  juicy mince- meat” out of the campaigner.

Then in August 2020, Navalny went to Siberia to make a video unmasking corruption.

On his return flight he fell violently ill, with a fellow passenger saying: “Alexei began moaning and screaming.”

He had been poisoned.

After two days of public pressure, Putin allowed Navalny to be flown to Germany for treatment. Tests in Berlin revealed he had been dosed with Novichok — the same Cold War chemical weapon used on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury in 2018.

Emerging from an induced coma after three weeks, he had trouble recognising his wife and children. Novichok had attacked his nervous system.

It would take weeks for him to relearn how to walk, write and hold cutlery.

Nursed back to health, Navalny hatched a plan to trap his poisoners, which could have come from a spy novel.

Gold toilet brushes

Investigative journalist collective Bellingcat pieced together evidence that Navalny had for years been followed by a “poison squad” working for the FSB security services.

Brazen Navalny then made a spoof call to one of the assailants, claiming to be an aide to a high-ranking FSB officer conducting an internal investigation. The agent told how FSB colleagues had applied Novichok to the “inner seams” of Navalny’s boxer shorts while he was in Siberia.

Labelled “the man Putin couldn’t kill”, Navalny then made the valiant decision to return to Russia from Berlin.

When he touched down in January last year, he was arrested for failing to check in with his Russian parole officer while in Germany.

From a court dock, he said of Putin: “Murder is the only way he knows how to fight.”

Two days after his arrest, his team released a video of a £1billion palace on the Black Sea coast that they said belonged to Putin.

It came with bling including £600-a-time gold-painted toilet brushes — while the average Russian wage is just over £430 a month. Tens of thousands of Russians — many waving “golden” toilet brushes — marched in more than 100 cities, while chanting, “Putin is a thief!”

The tyrant went on to order a crackdown, designating Navalny’s foundation an extremist group.

But from behind bars his campaigning continued — with him this week branding Putin’s inner circle “war criminals”.

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Inside Putin’s maximum-security prison, he is at the mercy of a despot who has already tried to kill him once.

Yet, if there is any justice, it is the butcher of Mariupol, rather than brave Navalny, who will end his days in a stinking jail cell.

Inside Putin’s maximum-security prison, Navalny is at the mercy of a despot who has already tried to kill him once

Inside Putin’s maximum-security prison, Navalny is at the mercy of a despot who has already tried to kill him once

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