German Gov’t: Russian opposition leader Navalny had nerve agent Novichok in his system

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Alexei Navalny

Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny, left, gestures in a court before a hearing in Moscow, Russia, Monday, July 1, 2019. A Moscow court jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny for 10 days on Monday after finding him guilty of breaking the law when he took part in a street demonstration last month. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s foreign minister says the Russian ambassador has been summoned and told that Berlin expects a full and transparent investigation of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s poisoning.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said it is important that those responsible are found and held to account for the sickening of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critic.

Mass spoke after the German government said new testing had proven the presence of the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok in samples from Navalny, who is being treated at a Berlin hospital.

Novicok is a class of nerve agents identified in a 2018 attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter in England.

Mass says the German government hopes Navalny will be able to make a complete recovery quickly.

Navalny, a politician and corruption investigator who is one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critics, fell ill on a flight back to Moscow from Siberia on Aug 20 and was taken to a hospital in the Siberian city of Omsk after the plane made an emergency landing.

He was later transferred to Berlin’s Charite hospital, where doctors last week said there were indications that he had been poisoned.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said in a statement Wednesday that testing by a special German military laboratory had shown proof of “a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok group.”

Novichok, a Soviet-era nerve agent, was used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain. It is a cholinesterase inhibitor, part of the class of substances that doctors at the Charite initially identied in Navalny.

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

Navalny’s allies in Russia have insisted he was deliberately poisoned by the country’s authorities, accusations that the Kremlin rejected as “empty noise.”

The Russian doctors who treated Navalny in Siberia have repeatedly contested the German hospital’s conclusion, saying they had ruled out poisoning as a diagnosis and that their tests for poisonous substances came back negative.

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