Alexei Navalny: Germany calls on EU to act against poisoning in Novichok

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legendAlexei Navalny is Russia’s best-known anti-corruption activist

A leading ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that the EU risks losing relevance if it does not act against Russia following the poisoning of opposition politician Alexei Navalny.

Norbert Röttgen said a major gas deal with Russia now needs to be reconsidered.

The Russian government has been widely condemned after Germany confirmed on Wednesday that Mr Navalny had been poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent.

He is seriously ill in intensive care at the Charité hospital in Berlin.

Mr Navalny flew to the German capital after collapsing in pain during a flight to Siberia on August 20. His supporters believe poison was put in his tea at Tomsk airport.

Mr Röttgen, chairman of the German parliament’s foreign affairs committee, demanded a firm response from the EU in the Navalny affair. Novichok is an extremely toxic military-grade weapon that experts say must come from a state facility.

“Now, once again, we are brutally confronted with the reality of the Putin regime, which treats people with contempt,” Röttgen told German public broadcaster ARD.

He noted that President Vladimir Putin had projected Russian power into Syria, Libya and Belarus, and said: “The question is whether the Europeans will always end up doing nothing? If so, then we will become useless, we will not. to be taken seriously. ”

Earlier, Ms Merkel had said Mr Navalny was the victim of an attempted murder and the world would look to Russia for answers.

She said there would be an “appropriate joint response” from the EU and NATO, describing the poisoning of Mr Navalny as “an attack on the fundamental values ​​and fundamental rights to which we are committed”.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has stated that poisoning a person with a nerve agent “is considered a use of chemical weapons.” He called the alleged attack “a matter of serious concern” and pledged to help any state that asks for his help.

The Kremlin did not accept the diagnosis in Germany, saying it had not seen German data on Mr Navalny’s condition.

“There is no reason to accuse the Russian state,” Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for President Putin, told reporters, adding that Germany and other EU countries should not “stand by. hurry with their evaluations ”.

Doubts about the Russian gas deal

Mr Röttgen warned that Germany would risk becoming dependent on Russia by completing Nord Stream 2, a controversial 1,225 km (760 miles) gas pipeline owned by Russian company Gazprom.

He also warned that it would encourage Mr. Putin to ignore Western protests over the Navalny affair and other attacks on his political opponents. Mr Röttgen is a candidate to succeed Merkel as Chancellor next year.

On Tuesday, Merkel reiterated her wish to see Nord Stream 2 completed.

media legendGas wars: The problem with Nord Stream 2

President Donald Trump has imposed sanctions on any company that helps Gazprom carry out the project.

However, his detractors ask why he did not comment on the targeting of Mr. Navalny.

His rival in the presidential race, Joe Biden, accused the Kremlin of “a scandalous and brazen attempt to assassinate Mr. Navalny”.

“Donald Trump has refused to confront Putin, calling him a ‘great person’,” Biden said.

image copyrightEPA
legendMr Navalny was flown to Berlin on an emergency flight from Omsk to Siberia

Mr. Navalny was placed in a medically induced coma after falling ill. His team says he was poisoned on the orders of President Putin. The Kremlin rejected the allegation.

A team of German specialists found “unequivocal evidence” that a Novichok nerve agent was used.

Charité Hospital says it expects Navalny’s recovery to take time and cannot rule out long-term sequelae, but agent blockade of his cholinesterase enzyme is on the decline.

The Kremlin spokeswoman on Wednesday called on Germany for a full exchange of information and Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova complained that Novichok’s claims were not supported by evidence.

International outrage

Novichok has already made headlines. It was used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK in 2018. While they survived, a British woman later died in hospital. The UK accused Russian military intelligence services of carrying out the attack.

In a coordinated move, 20 countries expelled more than 100 Russian diplomats and spies.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the latest attack as “scandalous”. “The Russian government must now explain what happened to Mr. Navalny – we will work with international partners to ensure justice is done,” he tweeted.

The EU demanded a “transparent” investigation from the Russian government. “Those responsible must be brought to justice,” read a statement.

The United States’ National Security Council (NSC) said the alleged intoxication was “completely wrong.”

“We will work with our allies and the international community to hold people in Russia accountable, wherever the evidence leads us, and to restrict funds for their malicious activities,” said a spokesperson for the NSC.

Alexei Navalny is a name President Putin refuses to say aloud.

It is an attempt to diminish his political significance, but the endless prosecutions, police detentions and huge fines Mr Navalny has faced over the years tell a different story of its impact.

He certainly annoyed a lot of people, from those targeted by his anti-corruption investigations to Vladimir Putin himself. So it is possible that someone wants to fix the “Navalny problem” for good.

The timing is largely irrelevant. Why now? Well why not. But if whoever did this was hoping to contain the fallout – a mysterious collapse never explained by Russian doctors – the fact that Navalny’s team took him to Germany shattered that calculation.

The “collapse” is now a deliberate attack and a major international scandal. The Kremlin’s response so far is familiar: deny, obscure, demand proof. Mr Putin’s spokesperson even hinted that if Mr Navalny had been poisoned, it should have happened in Germany because medics here did not detect anything suspicious.

Expect to hear a lot more of this in the coming days.

  • Alexei Navalny

  • Germany
  • Russia
  • Chemical Weapons
  • Angela Merkel
  • Moscow

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