Germany’s foreign minister said it would discuss with his ally the possibility of punishing Moscow for the serious illness of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
“If in the coming days Russia does not clarify what happened, we will be forced to discuss a countermeasure with allies,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told Bild today. Germany is currently the President of the Council of the European Union.
Alexei Navalny in Moscow, Russia, July 2019. Photo: Reuters.
Alexei Navalny, 44, leader of the opposition party of the Russian People’s Union, lost consciousness while on a flight from Siberia to Moscow on August 20, forcing his plane to make an emergency landing. Navalny’s assistant claimed he was poisoned while drinking tea at a coffee shop at Tomsk airport, Siberia, before boarding the plane.
Germany on September 2 announced Navalny was poisoned by Novichok compound, but Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova immediately called it a “lack of evidence” statement. Russian doctors said they found no trace of the toxin in Navalny’s body, adding that his condition was caused by a sudden decrease in blood glucose levels due to metabolic imbalance.
The Russian Prosecutor General’s office this week said it had also asked Germany to share its clinical findings and preliminary diagnoses while doctors were treating Navalny at Charite Hospital in Berlin. Novichok is a nerve agent that Russian intelligence has been accused of using to assassinate former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK in 2018, but Moscow denies all charges.
The European Union (EU) called on Russia on September 3 to fully cooperate with the Organization for the Ban of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to ensure an objective international investigation, and warned not to rule out the punishments against Moscow.
The Kremlin has repeatedly denied all allegations related to the Navalny case, asserting that there is no reason to blame or punish Russia. Moscow also hopes this issue does not ruin its relations with the West.