Alexei Navalny: Novichuk nerve gas used for poisoning, German government says

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

German government spokesman Steven Seibert said that toxicology tests on samples taken from Navalny were carried out in a German military laboratory. He said they had provided “conclusive evidence of the presence of chemical nerve agents” from the Novichok group.

Seibert said in a statement that it was “astonishing” that “Navalny was the victim of a chemical nerve gas attack in Russia.”

“The federal government condemns this attack in the strongest possible terms,” ​​the statement said, adding: “The Russian government is invited to clarify its position regarding the incident.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday that the Kremlin had not received any information from Germany about Navalny’s poisoning with a substance from the Novichok group, according to Russian news agency TASS.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said it is awaiting a German response to the Russian Attorney General’s request regarding the treatment and diagnosis of Navalny, Tass reported.

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

“We hope for a full recovery for Alexei Navalny,” the German government statement concluded.

Prominent critic in the Kremlin

Navalny, 44, a major critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, fell ill on his way from Siberia to Moscow on August 20.

Tragic video footage from the plane showed a man moaning in apparent agony.

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The plane made an emergency landing in Omsk, and Navalny was transferred to a hospital there, before his wife and supporters asked to take him to Germany for treatment.

The anti-corruption blogger was transferred to Berlin on 22 August and taken to the city’s Charité Hospital, where he was said to be in an induced coma.

After the German government announced Wednesday, Leonid Volkov, Navalny’s chief of staff, posted a photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s signature on Twitter. In the accompanying text, Volkov writes that the act of poisoning Navalny to Novichuk was akin to leaving his signature at the crime scene.

The director of the Navalny Anti-Corruption Foundation, Ivan Zhdanov, wrote a tweet on Wednesday, writing that Novichuk can only be used before. [Russian] The state, “referring to the country’s intelligence institutions,” Zhdanov added, “This leaves no room for doubt.”

Critics or other opponents of the Kremlin were involved in apparently poisoned incidents or suffered mysterious deaths.

In March 2018, former Russian spy Sergei Skripal was the target of a nerve gas attack by Novichok in the English cathedral city of Salisbury. Skripal and his daughter Yulia became seriously ill after the attack.

The couple recovered but Don Sturgis, a 44-year-old woman accidentally exposed to military nerve gas, subsequently died.

“The identification of the toxin as a family member of Novichuk agents strongly indicates that the Russian government is responsible for this anger,” Andrea Sella, a professor of inorganic chemistry at University College London, told CNN.
“The Russian government has the motivation for it, but it also has a proven track record at multiple levels,” Sela said. “It shows their cruelty but also their level of impunity. It is clear that they don’t care much about international opinion and are ready to act because they know the consequences are very small.”

The Novichuk agents Both are so deadly and uncommon, that very few scientists outside Russia have any real experience dealing with them.

Novichok means “newcomer” in Russian. The Soviet Union secretly developed chemical weapons for the first time during the Cold War in the 1980s.

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Its existence was kept a secret until the mid-1990s, when information about the production was revealed as part of a deliberate leak by disaffected and whistleblower Soviet scientist Phil Mirzayanov. Even today, no country outside Russia is known to have developed materials in the Novichok group.

CNN’s Gianluca Mesofiori and Daria Tarasova contributed to this report.

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