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Germany blasts Russia's sanctions plan over Navalny

November 13, 2020

Berlin has hit out at Moscow's retaliation to EU sanctions brought in against six Russian officials in October over the poisoning of Alexei Navalny. A spokesman for Chancellor Merkel said the move was "inappropriate."

Steffen Seibert, the spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel, at a press conference. Archive image from June 2020. (Britta Pedersen/dpa)
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/B. Pedersen

Germany on Friday hit back at Russia after it pledged to sanction German and French officials amid a row over the poisoning of opposition figure Alexei Navalny.

EU member states agreed to issue sanctions against six Russian officials in October, including the head of the FSB internal security agency, arguing that the Kremlin's security services must have been complicit in the 44-year-old anti-corruption campaigner's fate.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert (pictured above) said that Moscow "has all the means at its disposal to get to the bottom of this crime."

"Instead, it is levels sanctions against officials of other states," he told journalists. "Such a step is, of course, unjustified and inappropriate from the German government's point of view."

His comments come after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday that the Kremlin would retaliate to the EU's punitive measures.

Lavrov said sanctions had already been approved internally, and would target "senior staff of the offices of the leaders of Germany and France," to mirror the status of the Russians affected by EU sanctions.

Alexei Navalny and his wife Julia, in a photo published on the politician's Instagram account on September 25, 2020.
Alexei Navalny is recovering in Germany with his wife, JuliaImage: Navalny/Instagram/AP/dpa/picture alliance

Navalny collapsed on a flight in Russia in August before being transferred to a Berlin clinic where doctors found he had been poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok.

Last month, the inter-governmental Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) also found that it had been used against Navalny.

The Kremlin has denied any involvement and bristled at requests from Germany and EU governments that they should provide answers as to how the poisoning happened. Instead, it requested the samples taken in Germany, arguing that it had found no sign of the nerve agent in its own tests in Russia.

A spokeswoman for Navalny called Lavrov's suggestion that he might have been poisoned in Germany "the most idiotic of them all."

The Russian opposition figure is still in Germany, receiving treatment. He plans to return to his homeland once he makes a full recovery.

Poison just one method used to attack Kremlin critics

jf/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)