PUTIN’S FOE POISONED BY NOVICHOK
UK warns Kremlin as world condemns ‘cowardly’ attack just two years after Salisbury outrage
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