Germany and France as well as the United States have increased pressure on Russia to investigate the suspected poisoning of prominent dissident Alexei Navalny, who is being treated in a coma in a Berlin hospital.
“Due to the importance Mr. Navalny has for the Russian opposition, it is essential that everything be done to clarify what happened and hold those responsible to account,” said German senior diplomat Heiko Maas.
Russia should conduct the investigation “transparently,” Maas said, suggesting that if Russia does not, there will be a further deterioration in its relations with Germany and the European Union.
France has expressed its “deep concern about this criminal act, committed against a major player in Russian political life”.
The French foreign ministry demanded that Russia conduct a “swift and transparent” investigation and bring those responsible to justice.
The Berlin hospital treating Navalny said Monday their tests indicated he had been poisoned.
“If the reports prove to be correct, the United States supports the EU’s call for a full investigation and stands ready to assist in this effort,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday.
“Mr. Navalny’s family and the Russian people deserve to see a full and transparent investigation carried out, and those involved to be held accountable,” he said.
The Russian government said there was no hard evidence that Navalny was poisoned and the Kremlin flatly denied the torts allegations.
“These claims cannot be true and are what I would call empty noise. We are not going to take them seriously, ”Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in comments released by the official TASS news agency.
Peskov said it was premature to allege that Navalny was poisoned because a specific toxic substance that could have caused the dissident’s condition had not been detected.
The Berlin Charity Hospital, which has been treating Navalny since he was transferred from a Siberian hospital on Saturday, said tests indicate he was poisoned with a cholinesterase inhibitor, which prevents the normal breakdown of the acetylcholine neurotransmitter.
Peskov said Russian doctors who initially treated Navalny discovered the patient’s low cholinesterase level within the first few hours and used atropine for treatment.
Charité Hospital said he was using the same drug, which he described as an “antidote” for the suspected poisoning.
The head of the Moscow Forensic Office, Sergei Shigeyev, said earlier that it was “premature” for the Charité hospital to come to this conclusion without identifying a specific poison, according to comments from TASS.
“Cholinesterase activity varies widely among people, especially due to certain chronic diseases,” Shigeyev said.
Navalny, 44, has been one of the fiercest domestic opponents of Russian President Vladimir Putin over the past decade, having staged several rounds of protests against the longtime Russian leader, whom he accuses of perpetuating corruption generalized.
Navalny fell ill on a flight from the Siberian city of Tomsk en route to his hometown of Moscow on Thursday.
The airliner made an emergency landing in the Siberian city of Omsk for Navalny to be hospitalized.
Navalny was in Tomsk to support the opposition candidates in the local elections.
His representative, Kira Yarmysh, said it appeared Navalny had been poisoned with tea he drank at Tomsk airport.
Omsk hospital concluded that Navalny had probably fallen into a coma due to low blood sugar.
Russia has not opened a criminal investigation into this incident.
Australian Associated Press