Berlin calls attack on Russian opposition leader an ‘astounding act’ and demands explanation from Moscow
The German government has said that toxicological exams at Berlin’s Charité hospital have yielded “unequivocal proof” that Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader, was poisoned with a novichok nerve agent.
Navalny, who has been a strong critic of Vladimir Putin, the current Russian president, fell ill while on a flight back to Moscow from Siberia on the 20th of August; he was then transferred to Berlin two days later.
Alexei Navalny the anti-corruption campaigner became ill during a flight in which the plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Omsk, Kira Yarmysh said, adding that they suspected a substance had been mixed into his drink.
Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said in a personal statement on Wednesday afternoon that tests performed by a special military laboratory had shown proof that a chemical nerve agent from the novichok group was used on Navalny.
“It is now clear: Alexei Navalny is the victim of a crime,”
Merkel said “He was meant to be silenced. This raises very difficult questions that only the Russian government can answer, and has to answer.”
Novichok, a Soviet-era nerve agent, was the same nerve agent that was used to poison Sergei Skripal, the former Russian spy, as well as his daughter in the United Kingdom. It is a cholinesterase inhibitor, and is part of the class of substances that doctors at the Charité initially identified in Navalny.
According to Der Spiegel, the German news magazine, experts at the Charité sought advice from Porton Down, The UK’s secretive laboratory for researching chemical and biological weapons, due to the possible similarities with the Skripal attack in 2018 .
The use of the novichok nerve agents had been officially banned last year after being added to the chemical weapons convention’s list of controlled substances.
The German government’s official statement has described the attack on Alexei Navalny with a chemical nerve agent an “astounding act” and has appealed to the Russian government to urgently offer an explanation.
This news follows UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told Members of Parliaments that there was “no smoking gun” in the now-released Russia report, as opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer claimed that the Prime Minister “sat on” the “extremely serious” report.
Sergey Lagodinsky, a German Green MEP and former fellow student of Navalny’s at Yale University, said: “I’m impressed by the clear framing of the government’s response. The confirmation that a banned nerve agent was used to poison a Russian opposition politician brings this case on to an international level. We need an international investigation.”