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French, Swedish labs confirm Navalny poisoned with Novichok

September 14, 2020

Specialist labs in France and Sweden confirmed that Alexei Navalny had been poisoned with a Novichok chemical agent, German officials have said. Berlin doctors reported Navalny no longer needs a ventilator to breathe.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny delivers a speech
Image: AFP/Y. Kadobnov

French and Swedish specialist labs confirmed that the poisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok, the German government said on Monday.

Berlin previously confirmed that the opposition leader — who is currently recovering in the German capital — had been targeted with Novichok after a toxicology test in Germany

"We renew our call for Russia to explain these events," German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Monday.

"We are in close consultation with our European partners on further steps."

Navalny 'able to leave his bed'

Meanwhile, Berlin's Charite clinic reported that the 44-year-old Navalny had been "successfully removed from mechanical ventilation."

"He is currently undergoing mobilization and is able to leave his bed for short periods of time," they said in a brief statement.

OPCW to test samples

On Monday, Seibert said samples taken from the Russian dissident had also been sent to the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague for testing.

"Independently of the OPCW's investigations, three laboratories have now independently identified a military nerve agent as the cause of Mr Navalny's poisoning," said Seibert, who called Navalny's poisoning, "a serious violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)."

Read more: Alexei Navalny's allies claim council wins in Russia local elections

German army personnel load a portable isolation unit into their ambulance
Alexei Navalny was flown to Berlin, where he is recovering at the Charite HospitalImage: Getty Images/M. Hitij

German Chancellor Angela Merkel had said Navalny was "the victim of a crime intended to silence him."

Moscow has insisted that it has seen no evidence that Navalny was poisoned and angrily dismissed Berlin's findings.

Russia has asked Germany to share the evidence that led it to conclude "without doubt" that Navalny was poisoned with a military nerve agent from the Novichok group.

Macron slams 'attempted murder' while talking to Putin

French President Emmanuel Macron urged his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to ensure "all light be shed, without delay" on the facts surrounding the Navalny poisoning.

Talking to Putin on the phone on Monday, Macron described the incident as an "attempted murder" and "a criminal act," according to the Elysee palace.

The Kremlin also published a statement about the call, in which they note that President Putin emphasized "inappropriateness" of blaming Russia and dismissed such claims as "groundless and not based on anything."

During the call, it had "been pointed out" that German experts should deliver to Russia samples taken from Navalny and used to establish that he had been poisoned with Novichok, according to Putin's aides. The Russian side also called to establish cooperation with Russian doctors.

Separately, a spokeswoman for the German foreign ministry noted that Russia should already have samples from Navalny as the opposition leader spent 48 hours in a Russian hospital before being transferred to Berlin.

"The Russian side is called on, even after three independent labs have established the result, to explain itself, and Russia has ... all the information and all the samples it needs for an analysis," spokeswoman Maria Adebahr said.

Fate of Nord Stream 2 in the balance

The 44-year-old Kremlin critic and protest leader fell ill during a flight from Siberia to Moscow on August 20, after which his plane made an emergency landing in the Siberian city of Omsk. He was hospitalized before being flown to Berlin for treatment at the city's Charite Hospital. 

Germany has not ruled out sanctions if the Kremlin is found to be behind the alleged chemical attack. A gas pipeline between Berlin and Moscow — Nord Stream 2 — is being reconsidered amid spiraling tensions. 

Read more: Navalny poisoning: Russia wants to send investigators to Germany

kw,dj/rc (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)