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Merkel says Navalny poisoning was attempted murder

Jon Shelton
September 2, 2020

German Chancellor Merkel called the Navalny case "attempted murder with a nerve agent" adding that she expected Moscow to explain its position. The Kremlin said Moscow was "not inclined to accept any accusations."

Russland Moskau | Alexej Nawalny, Oppositionspolitiker
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/P. Golovkin

Angela Merkel said there was "shocking information" that showed "beyond a doubt" that the poisoning of Alexei Navalny was "an attempted murder with nerve agent" after a toxicology test in Germany showed that the opposition leader had been targeted with Novichok.

Merkel said Navalny was "the victim of a crime intended to silence him." She said the gravity of that fact made it important for her to "take a clear stance."

The chancellor said the case raises "very serious questions that only the Russian government can answer — and must answer," adding, "the world will wait for an answer."

Berlin slams attack 'in strongest possible terms'

Previously, a government spokesman said that the test showed conclusive evidence that the Russian opposition leader had been poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok.

The test was conducted in a special German military lab, according to the government spokesman Steffen Seibert.

Seibert said Merkel and her Cabinet had met to discuss the situation and determine a course of action. In a tweet announcing the findings, Seibert wrote, "The German federal government condemns this attack in the strongest possible terms."

The German government expected a swift and full explanation from Russia, according to the spokesman, who also added that Foreign Minister Heiko Maas had summoned the Russian ambassador to discuss the situation.

Alexei Nawalny arrives at Berlin's Charite Hospital (Getty Images/HM Hitij)
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was flown to Berlin, where he remains in critical condition at the Charite HospitalImage: Getty Images/M. Hitij

Read more: Russia asks Germany for help with Alexei Navalny case

Berlin will now confer with its EU and NATO partners to discuss an appropriate reaction to the incident, as well as notifying the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) as to the findings. Calling for a united diplomatic reaction in her statement, Merkel said, "The crime against Alexei Navalny was aimed at the fundamental values and rights for which we stand."     

Diplomatic battle over Navalny

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the state has rejected the accusation that it was behind Navalny's poisoning.

"There are no grounds to accuse the Russian state. And we are not inclined to accept any accusations in this respect," said Peskov.

Navalny is a known critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The opposition leader and his allies claimed Navalny had been poisoned once before while in a detention cell in Moscow last year. He was also attacked in public. The nerve agent Novichok is the same toxin that was used in the 2018 poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England.  

Navalny 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 and he was rushed to a local hospital where he went into coma. Two days later, after much diplomatic wrangling, Russian doctors allowed the opposition leader to be flown to Berlin, where he was treated at the city’s Charite Hospital. 

He remains in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator in the Charite as of Wednesday afternoon. Doctors there say that his condition is critical though his life is no longer in danger.