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German Minister of State slams Russia on Navalny poisoning

September 16, 2020

Talking to DW's Conflict Zone, Niels Annen said he is "very, very disappointed" about Russia's reaction and stressed sanctions are on the table.

Niels Annen
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/G. Wendt

Niels Annen on Conflict Zone

German Minister of State Niels Annen strongly criticized the Russian government for its reaction following the suspected poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is currently hospitalized in Berlin.

Talking to DW's Conflict Zone at the German Foreign Ministry in Berlin, Annen told host Sarah Kelly that he's "very, very disappointed" about Russia's reaction.

"Instead of making clear what happened and to cooperate in an investigation, we are seeing the old scheme of misleading information, of counter accusations," he said.

Annen, who is also a member of Parliament for the Social Democrats, stressed it was "quite obvious" that the poisoning was a "breach of international law," adding that the case has an "international dimension."

The German government has indicated it has "unequivocal proof" that Navalny was poisoned with a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok group.

It has also stressed specialist laboratories in Sweden and France have corroborated these findings.

Berlin has demanded answers from the Russian government, which denies any wrongdoing.

Read more: Germany is mulling economic sanctions against Russia. Do they actually work?

Germany Berlin | Selfie | Alexej Nawalny
Alexei Navalny posted a photo online that showed him sitting up in bed with his family and breathing by himself.Image: picture-alliance/dpa/D. Nawalny

'You need to be very clear'

The Navalny case has badly affected relations between Germany and Russia, which could be further disturbed if sanctions are imposed against Moscow.

Annen emphasized that "the Russian side needs to know that clear sanctions are on the table," although he added that he still hopes they can be prevented.

However, he stressed to Conflict Zone host Sarah Kelly that "this is entirely the Russian government's decision."

Annen also said he is "not convinced" about stopping the nearly completed gas pipeline Nord Stream 2 between Germany and Russia, a possibility which is being heavily debated in Germany.

Alexei Navalny: Danger of dissent

Navalny’s poisoning has put increasing pressure on the German government to end the project, which is set to bring gas from Russia to Germany.

"It's too simple just to say closing Nord Stream 2 will solve the problem," said Annen. "I don't buy it."

Annen also said, “would we do something that really would make Russia pay a price or would we also somehow do something that goes against our own long-term interests?"

Despite these tensions, the minister of state said channels of communication with Moscow should remain open in order to address international conflicts in countries like Libya or Syria.

"You cannot cut off the dialogue with Russia, but you need to be very clear, and that's what we are," he concluded.

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