UK warns Krem­lin as world con­demns ‘cow­ardly’ at­tack just two years af­ter Sal­is­bury out­rage

Daily Mail - - Coronaviru­s Crisis - By Larisa Brown De­fence and Se­cu­rity Ed­i­tor

BRI­TAIN last night threat­ened Rus­sia with ‘ con­se­quences’ af­ter it emerged a Krem­lin critic was poi­soned with Novi­chok – the same nerve agent used in the 2018 Sal­is­bury at­tack.

For­eign Sec­re­tary Do­minic Raab urged the Krem­lin to come clean about its in­volve­ment in the use of a banned chem­i­cal weapon in a bid to ‘si­lence’ opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Crit­ics rounded on Rus­sia af­ter Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel said the poi­son­ing of Mr Navalny was ‘at­tempted mur­der’.

Her spokesman re­vealed that test­ing by a

Ger­man mil­i­tary lab­o­ra­tory had shown ‘proof with­out doubt of a chem­i­cal nerve agent from the Novi­chok group’.

An ally of Mr Navalny said such brazen use of the Soviet-era chem­i­cal was akin to ‘leav­ing an au­to­graph at a crime scene’.

The mil­i­tary-grade nerve agent was used by Rus­sian GRU of­fi­cers to poi­son for­mer dou­ble agent Sergei Skri­pal and his daugh­ter Yulia in Sal­is­bury in 2018.

Last night a Govern­ment source said they be­lieved it was ‘most likely’ that the Rus­sian state was be­hind the at­tack. For­eign Of­fice of­fi­cials were brac­ing them­selves for a dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paign out of Moscow, with the Krem­lin’s on­line oper­a­tions try­ing to de­flect the blame.

A se­cu­rity source added: ‘ This is an­other ex­am­ple of how lit­tle they value life. The MO (modus operandi) is seem­ingly in keep­ing with Sal­is­bury... and nu­mer­ous other as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempts. If any­thing it sends a weak mes­sage that “we’re re­ally wor­ried about this guy”.’

Mr Raab said: ‘I am deeply con­cerned that Alexei Navalny was poi­soned by Novi­chok, a nerve agent pre­vi­ously used with lethal ef­fect in the UK. It is ab­so­lutely un­ac­cept­able that this banned chem­i­cal weapon has been used again, and once more we see vi­o­lence di­rected against a lead­ing Rus­sian opposition fig­ure.’

He urged Moscow to come clean, adding: ‘ The Rus­sian govern­ment has a clear case to an­swer. It must tell the truth about what hap­pened to Mr Navalny.

‘We will work closely with Ger­many, our al­lies and in­ter­na­tional part­ners to demon­strate that there are con­se­quences for us­ing banned chem­i­cal weapons any­where in the world.’

Boris Johnson said: ‘It’s out­ra­geous. The Rus­sian govern­ment must now ex­plain what hap­pened to Mr Navalny – we will work with in­ter­na­tional part­ners to en­sure jus­tice is done.’

Mrs Merkel said: ‘ Alexei Navalny was the vic­tim of an at­tack with a chem­i­cal nerve agent of the Novi­chok group. This poi­son could be iden­ti­fied un­equiv­o­cally. He was meant to be si­lenced, and I con­demn this in the strong­est pos­si­ble man­ner.’

The mil­i­tary-grade nerve agents were de­vel­oped by the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War. Western weapons ex­perts say it was ma­nunoise’.

‘Ex­am­ple of how lit­tle they value life’

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

He was trans­ferred two days later to Ber­lin’s Charite Hospi­tal, where doc­tors last week said ini­tial tests in­di­cated Mr Navalny had been poi­soned, some­thing Siberian doc­tors had de­nied.

Ger­many’s for­eign min­is­ter Heiko Maas said the Rus­sian am­bas­sador had been sum­moned and told that Ber­lin ex­pected a full and trans­par­ent in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

But the Krem­lin said yes­ter­day it had not been in­formed of Mr Navalny be­ing poi­soned with a nerve agent. ‘Such in­for­ma­tion hasn’t been re­layed to us,’ a spokesman said.

Mr Navalny’s al­lies in Rus­sia say he was de­lib­er­ately poi­soned by the coun­try’s au­thor­i­ties, ac­cu­sa­tions that the Krem­lin re­jected as ‘empty ‘To poi­son Navalny with Novi­chok in 2020 would be ex­actly the same as leav­ing an au­to­graph at a crime scene, like this one,’ Mr Navalny’s long-time ally and strate­gist Leonid Volkov said in a tweet that fea­tured a photo of Mr Putin’s name and a sig­na­ture next to it.

The Rus­sian doc­tors who treated Mr Navalny in Siberia re­peat­edly con­tested the Ger­man hospi­tal’s con­clu­sions, say­ing they had ruled out poi­son­ing. In Charite’s lat­est up­date, the hospi­tal said Mr Navalny was in an in­duced coma but in a sta­ble con­di­tion.

Bri­tain iden­ti­fied Novi­chok as the poi­son used in 2018 on for­mer Rus­sian spy Mr Skri­pal, 69, and his daugh­ter Yulia, 36.

UK pros­e­cu­tors have charged two Rus­sians with the 2018 at­tack, which left the Skri­pals in a crit­i­cal con­di­tion and killed a lo­cal woman. Rus­sia

has re­fused to ex­tra­dite the men, said to be mem­bers of the gRU spy ser­vice.

Po­lice be­lieve the nerve agent was smug­gled to Bri­tain in a per­fume bot­tle and sprayed on the front door of Mr Skri­pal’s house. More than three months later, the bot­tle was found by a lo­cal man, 48-year-old Charlie Row­ley. He was ad­mit­ted to hospi­tal and his girl­friend Dawn Sturgess, 44, died af­ter be­ing ex­posed to the con­tents.

For­eign af­fairs select com­mit­tee chair­man tom tu­gend­hat tweeted: ‘the pat­tern of vi­o­lence by Putin against the Rus­sian peo­ple is hor­rific. His mafia regime has mur­dered and robbed for decades. Now he’s one of the rich­est men in the world but he still needs to kill to hold power.’

the White House called the poi­son­ing ‘com­pletely rep­re­hen­si­ble’, while EU chief Ur­sula von der Leyen said it was ‘de­spi­ca­ble and cow­ardly’.

In­duced coma: Alexei Navalny with wife Yulia

Poi­soned: Sergei Skri­pal and his daugh­ter Yulia

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