‘That Alexey Navalny must be quite someone,’ went a joke on the Russian internet, ‘if he has the secret services washing his underpants.’ Earlier this month, the opposition politician prank-called one of his attempted murderers. The FSB man, believing he was talking to a colleague, explained how his team had smeared Novichok on Navalny’s underpants in August, and then picked up the murder knickers after the operation and washed them (twice) to get rid of the evidence. Not only had Navalny, with the help of investigative reporting by Bellingcat and the Insider, managed to find out the names of the FSB goons who had tried to poison him; he also got one to confess to the operation. It took 49 minutes for the FSB officer to ask if it was OK to be talking on an open line. ‘Look how stupid and corrupt the Kremlin’s system is,’ Navalny said on his YouTube channel after the phone call: another reason to get rid of the regime. The late John le Carré’s world of Soviet superspies, operating silkily in shadows within shadows, has been replaced with a quite different image of Kremlin espionage: bumbling putzes scrubbing a pair of Y-fronts in full view of the world.