Putin's Rival Was Poisoned with Military-Grade Nerve Agent, Germany Says

“The Russian government is urged to explain itself," said Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman.
Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny and his wife Yulia attend a rally to demand the release of jailed protesters who were detained during opposition demonstrations for fair elections, in Moscow, Russia. Valeriy Melnikov / Sputnik via AP

Tests on Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny show “unequivocal proof” that he was poisoned with the military-grade nerve agent Novichok, a calling card of the Russian security services.

The poison is the same one used on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the U.K. in 2018, but lawmakers in Germany, where Navalny is being treated, said the use of this Soviet-era chemical weapon against a Russian citizen on Russian soil was particularly “shocking.” 

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Tests carried out on samples taken from Navalny showed “unequivocal proof” of the presence of “a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok group,” according to a statement from German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert.

“It is a shocking event that Alexei Navalny was the victim of an attack with a chemical nerve agent in Russia,” the statement said. “The Russian government is urged to explain itself.”

Navalny, in a coma and being treated in a specialized poison center in the Charite hospital in Berlin, fell ill on a flight to Moscow two weeks ago. His aides claimed at the time that a cup of tea he drank at the airport had been poisoned and that it was a deliberate attack orchestrated by the Kremlin and approved by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“To poison Navalny with Novichok in 2020 would be exactly the same as leaving an autograph at a crime scene, like this one,” Leonid Volkov, a longtime ally of Navalny, tweeted in a post featuring a photo of Putin’s name and a signature next to it.

The Kremlin has denied any involvement, and on Wednesday Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian state-run media that the German government had not provided them with any test results.

Navalny was initially treated in the Russian city of Omsk, where his plane made an emergency landing, but doctors there ruled out poisoning as a diagnosis, saying their tests for poisonous substances came back negative.

Seibert said the German government will inform its partners in the European Union and NATO about the test results. He said it will consult with its partners in light of the Russian response “on an appropriate joint response.”

Cover: Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny and his wife Yulia attend a rally to demand the release of jailed protesters who were detained during opposition demonstrations for fair elections, in Moscow, Russia. Valeriy Melnikov / Sputnik via AP