Kremlin critic Navalny poisoned with nerve agent, German government says
Kremlin critic Navalny poisoned with nerve agent, German government says
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny poisoned with Novichok
03 September, 2020, 05:24
Navalny, a politician and corruption investigator who is one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's fiercest critics, fell ill on a flight back to Moscow from Siberia on August 20 and was taken to a hospital in the Siberian city of Omsk after the plane made an emergency landing.
A spokesperson for the hospital treating Navalny, who has fallen into a coma, said his condition has improved but is still serious and that long-term damage can not be ruled out.
The German government announced Wednesday that Alexey Navalny had been poisoned with a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok group - the same agent the Kremlin used to poison ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the United Kingdom in March 2018. "Russian Federation has used the chemical nerve agent Novichok in the past", National Security Council spokesman John Ullyot said in a statement on Twitter.
This is a developing story.
"There are very serious questions now that only the Russian government can answer, and must answer", Merkel said. "The Russian people have a right to express their views peacefully without fear of retribution of any kind, and certainly not with chemical agents", the full statement read. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova charged on state TV that Germany preferred "public statements without providing any facts whatsoever" to "a thorough investigation". Russian Federation has used the chemical nerve agent Novichok in the past. While his life is not now in danger, the statement said, "a more prolonged course of the disease should be expected" and "long-term consequences of severe poisoning are not excluded".
Navalny's allies have also accused Russian authorities of delaying his transfer out of the country after the poisoning.
The Russian doctors who treated Navalny in Siberia have repeatedly contested the German hospital's conclusion, saying they had ruled out poisoning as a diagnosis and that their tests for poisonous substances came back negative. "He was supposed to be silenced and I, together with the entire German government condemn this in the strongest possible terms", Merkel told reporters on Wednesday.
A US government source familiar with USA intelligence reporting and analysis said the use of the Novichok family of nerve agents showed Putin was willing to be "bold" in targeting individuals he found threatening or irritating.
"In 2020 to poison Navalny with "Novichok" is the same as to leave a signature at the scene of the crime".
The use of a Novichok agent would greatly bolster evidence that Navalny's poisoning was carried out by Russian state agencies.
Russian Federation is already under Western sanctions after its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine six years ago.
Britain has charged two Russians - alleged to be agents of the Russian military intelligence service GRU - in absentia in the 2018 attack, which left the Skripals in critical condition and killed a local woman.
More than 150 Russian diplomats were expelled from the United States, the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries in a show of support for Britain after the attempted killing on UK soil.
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