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Germany confirms that Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny was poisoned with substance from ‘Novichok’ group of nerve agents

Source: Meduza
Christoph Soeder / dpa / AP / Scanpix / LETA

German officials have confirmed that Russian opposition figure and anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny was poisoned with a substance from the “Novichok” group of nerve agents — the same poison reportedly used in the attack against ex-spy Sergey Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in England in March 2018. Traces of the poison were found during tests conducted by a German military toxicology lab at the request of doctors from the Charité Hospital in Berlin, where Navalny is currently being treated. “Alexey Navalny was the victim of a chemical attack in Russia,” the German government underscored in its statement

Russia’s Ambassador in Berlin, Sergey Nechaev, was called to the German Foreign Ministry. “We have clearly formulated our call — clarify the circumstances of [the poisoning] with full transparency,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said about the results of the meeting. The Russian Ambassador had already left the German Foreign Ministry’s office at the time of writing. German officials also added that they will be notifying their EU and NATO partners about the incident, as well as contacting the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Maas said that a joint decision on “how Europe can react to this in a balanced manner” will be made in the coming days. 

The Russian authorities have refrained from making substantive comments so far. Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the information issued by the German government “was not communicated” to the Kremlin. In response to a request for comment from the Russian state news agency TASS, Russia’s Foreign Ministry only said that it had put in a request for the results of Navalny’s tests and is currently waiting on a response from the German Justice Ministry. Novichok developer Leonid Rink told the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti that Navalny’s symptoms don’t resemble Novichok poisoning.

Russia’s State Duma and Federation Council criticized the German government’s statement. Alexey Kondratiev, a member of the Federation Council’s international affairs committee, called the statement a “provocation, dictated by political motives,” expressing the opinion that it could have been orchestrated by the United States to stop the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. Leonid Slutsky, the chairman of the State Duma’s international affairs committee, called on Berlin to provide “concrete and tangible evidence” to back up the statement. Meanwhile, Franz Klintsevich, a member of the Federation Council’s defense and security committee, claimed that while Russian law enforcement agencies are ready to cooperate, Germany “doesn’t want to cooperate and is only engaging in accusations.”

Berlin’s Charité Hospital issued a new press release on Navalny’s health. The doctors said that the opposition figure remains in serious condition: he’s still being treated in intensive care and remains hooked up to a ventilator. That said, the doctors maintained that Navalny’s condition is improving due to “the gradual recovery of cholinesterase activity.” The German doctors are also anticipating a lengthy recovery, stating that it’s too early to assess the long-term effects of “this severe poisoning.” 

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