- White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Thursday avoided blaming Russia directly for the poisoning of Putin’s main opponent, Alexei Navalny.
- Russia has a long history of attacks on dissidents.
- Other world leaders have explicitly demanded an explanation from the Russian government, and Biden directly accused the Kremlin of the poisoning of Navalny.
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White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Thursday denounced the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny as “reprehensible”, but declined to attribute direct responsibility for the incident to the Russian government or to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
McEnany said the Trump administration was “deeply troubled” by Germany’s announcement Wednesday that the nerve agent Novichok had been found in Navalny’s system. Novichok was used to poison other Russian dissidents.
But she did not explicitly blame the Kremlin for the nerve agent attack, saying instead the administration will work to hold “those in Russia” responsible for the incident.
“We are deeply disturbed by the results released yesterday. The poisoning of Alexi Navalny is completely reprehensible. Russia has used chemical nerve agents in the past and we are working with our allies in the international community to hold people in Russia accountable, ”McEnany said. , essentially repeating a statement by the National Security Council released Wednesday.
—NSC (@WHNSC) September 2, 2020
Navalny is Putin’s most prominent opponent and has faced various forms of harassment from the Russian government for years. In 2018, he sought to challenge Putin for president, but was ultimately banned from running for office.
The anti-corruption activist fell ill last month while returning from Siberia to Moscow. His collaborators immediately suspected that he had been poisoned. Russian authorities initially banned Navalny from leaving the country, but he was eventually transferred to Germany for further processing.
Trump has remained remarkably silent on the issue, even as he continues to take to Twitter to attack opponents and offer his thoughts on a range of issues. The president has faced numerous calls to issue a statement directly condemning the attack on Navalny, including from his former national security adviser John Bolton.
Other world leaders have strongly demanded an explanation from the Russian government.
“It is scandalous that a chemical weapon has been used against Alexey Navalny,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted on Wednesday. “We have seen firsthand the deadly consequences of Novichok in the UK. The Russian government must now explain what happened to Mr. Navalny – we will work with international partners to ensure that justice is done. ”
Former Vice President Joe Biden released a statement on Wednesday in which the Kremlin was directly responsible for the poisoning of Navalny.
“Once again, the Kremlin has used a favorite weapon – an agent from the Novichok chemicals class – in an effort to silence a political opponent,” Biden said.
Navalny remains in intensive care at a Berlin hospital.