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German Government Says Russian Opposition Leader And Putin Critic Was Poisoned With Chemical Nerve Agent

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was poisoned with a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok group, the German government said Wednesday.

Navalny, who fell ill on a flight from the Siberian city of Tomsk to Moscow last month, is being treated at a Berlin hospital.

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said toxicological tests on samples taken from Navalny had been carried out at a German military laboratory. He said they provided "unequivocal evidence of a chemical nerve agent" from the Novichok group.

In a statement, Seibert said it was "startling" that "Navalny was the victim of an attack with a chemical nerve agent in Russia."

"The federal government condemns this attack in the strongest possible terms," the statement said, adding: "The Russian government is urged to explain itself regarding the incident."
In a press conference Wednesday German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the test results proved that Navalny had been the victim of a crime.

"Alexey Navalny was the victim of an attack with a chemical nerve agent of the Novichok group," Merkel said. "This poison can be detected without a doubt in the samples. This means that Alexey Navalny is definitely the victim of a crime. They wanted to silence him and I condemn this in the strongest possible terms, also on behalf of the entire Federal Government."

Merkel added: "There are very serious questions now which only the Russian government can and must answer. The fate of Alexey Navalny has received a lot of attention worldwide. The world will wait for an answer."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday that the Kremlin had not received any information from Germany that Navalny was poisoned with a substance from the Novichok group, according to Russian state news agency TASS.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said it was waiting for a German response to a request from the Russian Prosecutor General regarding Navalny's treatment and diagnosis, TASS reported.

Seibert said German Chancellor Angela Merkel had discussed Navalny's case with ministers earlier Wednesday, and that the government would inform the EU, NATO and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons about the results of the investigation.

The German government statement concluded: "We hope for a full recovery of Alexey Navalny."

Prominent Kremlin critic

Navalny, 44, a prominent critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, became ill en route from Siberia to Moscow on August 20.
Dramatic video footage from the plane showed a man groaning in apparent agony.

The flight made an emergency landing in Omsk, and Navalny was transferred to a hospital there, before his wife and supporters pleaded for him to be taken to Germany for treatment.

The anti-corruption blogger was flown to Berlin on August 22 and taken to the city's Charité Hospital.

A hospital spokesperson said Wednesday that Navalny remains in a "serious" condition and that doctors treating him were in close contact with the Kremlin critic's wife.

"Alexey Navalny is still being treated in an intensive care unit and mechanically ventilated. A longer course of the illness is to be expected," the statement read. "Long-term consequences of severe poisoning cannot be ruled out."

The statement added that the critic's condition was improving and that his symptoms from being poisoned were declining.

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