Berlin: Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader and a prominent critic of the government had fallen ill during a flight travel, the previous month. Now, as per the test results, the doctors confirmed that Mr. Navalny was poisoned with a nerve agent Novichok, said German government. Same nerve agent was used in UK attack on Russian former spy Sergei Skripal that was blamed on Moscow.
Mr. Navalny was one of the fiercest critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin and he was a corruption investigator. Mr. Navalny fell ill on a flight to Moscow from Tomsk in Siberia on August 20. The plane made an emergency landing and he was taken to a hospital in the city of Omsk. A couple of days later, he was shifted to Germany for advanced treatment in the Charité hospital at Berlin, the capital city.
The doctors of the Charité hospital confirmed yesterday that Mr. Navalny was poisoned with Novichok, as indicated in the initial test results. Rumours were strong about the chance of poisoning while he had fallen ill.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said in a statement on Wednesday that testing by a special German military laboratory had now shown “proof without doubt of a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok group.”
“It is a dismaying event that Alexei Navalny was the victim of an attack with a chemical nerve agent in Russia,” Mr Seibert said. “The German government condemns this attack in the strongest terms.”
What is Novichok?
Several potential chemical structures constitute the Novichok. These all feature the classical organophosphorus core (sometimes with the P=O replaced with P=S or P=Se), which is most commonly depicted as being a phosphoramidate or phosphonate, usually fluorinated.
The nerve agent is a cholinesterase inhibitor, part of the class of substances that doctors at the Berlin hospital initially identified in Mr Navalny. British authorities identified Novichok as the poison used in 2018 on Russian former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England. He spent months in hospital but survived the attack.
More than 150 Russian diplomats were expelled from the United States, the EU and NATO countries in a show of support for Britain after the attempted killing on UK soil. The main suspects for the attack fled to Russia and remain there.
Germany demanded a response from the Russian government over the latest findings. The Kremlin said on Wednesday it hadn’t yet been informed of Mr Navalny being poisoned with a nerve agent.
“Such information hasn’t been relayed to us,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the state Tass news agency.
Germany will send an official information about the incident along with the test results to the European Union and the NATO. Mr. Seibert said that the German government would consult with its partners in light of the Russian reaction “on an appropriate joint response.”
Germany would also contact the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, he added. Mr 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 Mr Navalny in Omsk repeatedly contested the German hospital’s poisoning conclusion, saying they had ruled out poisoning as a diagnosis and that their tests for cholinesterase inhibitors came back negative.
The Public Relations office of the Charité hospital said that Mr. Navalny was still in coma, but his vitals were in stable condition.