Laboratories in Sweden and France have independently confirmed that Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny was poisoned with the military-grade nerve agent Novichok, Germany said Monday, renewing its calls for Russia to front up with answers.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said in a statement that specialised laboratories in France and Sweden had tested samples from the 44-year-old Russian opposition politician, and confirmed German findings that he had been poisoned with Novichok – a calling card of the Russian secret service.
“Three laboratories have now independently identified a military nerve agent as the cause of Mr. Navalny's poisoning," said Seibert. "We renew our call for Russia to explain these events. We are in close contact with our European partners on further steps."
He said that the global chemical weapons watchdog, the Hague-based Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, is also testing samples from Navalny. The head of the Swedish Defence Research Agency, Asa Scott, confirmed to Swedish news agency TT that tests carried out there had come to the same conclusions as the German findings.
European governments and NATO have been calling on Russia to cooperate with an impartial international investigation into the poisoning, and account for how Navalny was sickened on a plane over Siberia last month. The Soviet-era nerve agent found in Navalny’s samples was the same used in an attack on a former Russian military officer and double agent and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury in 2018.
The Kremlin has rejected any suggestion that the Russian state must have been involved in the attack, and said it has seen no evidence that the dissident was poisoned, accusing Western governments of an attempt to smear Russia. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday that Russia rejected demands from other states to open legal procedures, and was unable to open a criminal case on the basis of tests carried out in foreign laboratories.
Doctors treating Navalny in Berlin said last week he had been taken out of a medically induced coma and was responding to speech.
Germany’s government says the poisoning was an attempt to kill Navalny, and calls have been growing there to pull out of a joint venture gas pipeline project with Russia in response to the attack.