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Calls grow for probe into Navalny 'poisoning'

August 26, 2020

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said there was "no reason to doubt" German doctors' finding that Navalny had likely been poisoned. Russia has yet to open a criminal probe into the case, despite international pressure.

Archive image of Alexei Navalny at a march in memory of murdered Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov in Moscow, on February 29, 2020.
Image: Getty Images/AFP/K. Kudryavtsev

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg joined a growing chorus of international voices on Wednesday urging an investigation into the suspected poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

"What we need now is a transparent investigation to find out what happened and to make sure those responsible are held accountable," Stoltenberg told journalists in Berlin ahead of a meeting with EU defense ministers.

Earlier on Wednesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK would support an independent probe into the case, adding that the "UK will join international efforts to ensure justice is done."

Read more:  Opinion — Germany unlikely to pressure Russia on reported poisoning

The German government as well as the European Union previously called for a complete investigation into the incident.

Russia has not yet opened a criminal investigation into the case, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying there was "no pretext" to do so until the exact toxin used in the suspected poisoning was identified.

'No reason to doubt' Berlin doctors

Stoltenberg said there was also "no reason to doubt the findings of the doctors" at the Berlin hospital where Navalny is being treated. 

On Monday, clinical tests at Berlin's Charite hospital indicated that the Kremlin-critic had likely been poisoned by a toxin — finding traces of substances in his system that are used in nerve agents as well as insecticides and medicines.

Read more:  Berlin hospital says Alexei Navalny was likely poisoned

The Russian government has rejected the medical report, calling the findings of German doctors premature.

Navalny, a fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was airlifted for treatment in Berlin over the weekend after collapsing on a plane last week while returning to Moscow from Siberia.

German-Russian relations cool

Read more:  Was Alexei Navalny poisoned with Novichok?

Navalny condition potentially improving

Although Navalny has been in an induced coma for almost a week, his condition could possibly be improving, said the head of the Berlin-based NGO that helped organize Navalny's medical transfer to Germany.

"I have the feeling that Navalny could be doing a little bit better now," Jaka Bizilj, the director of the Cinema for Peace, told DW.

Bizilj added that he hoped Navalny's condition improved enough so that he would be "able to do his work again."

When asked how he was able to arrange the medical flight for Navalny, Bizilj said his first call was to Berlin's Charite hospital to see if it would be possible — where they were already awaiting his call.

Read more:  The German NGO behind Alexei Navalny's rescue

The film director also called on politicians in Europe and the US to stand up for their democratic values.

"I think if the West wants to stay the West, it needs to take a clear stand for human rights and democracy. And it also needs to prove that in a relationship to the rest of the world," Bizilj told DW.

This article has been updated to reflect that Jaka Bizilj saw, but did not speak to, Alexei Navalny's wife, Yulia Navalnaya.

rs/msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)