'Absolutely Reprehensible': US Denounces Poisoning of Russian Opposition Leader Alexei Navalny

'Absolutely Reprehensible': US Denounces Poisoning of Russian Opposition Leader Alexei Navalny
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny attends a protest in Moscow, Russia on July 20, 2019. (Pavel Golovkin/AP Photo)
Mimi Nguyen Ly
Melanie Sun
The United States on Wednesday said it was "deeply troubled" by news that Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny had been poisoned with the chemical agent Novichok.
"The United States is deeply troubled by the results released today. Alexei Navalny’s poisoning is completely reprehensible. Russia has used the chemical nerve agent Novichok in the past," White House National Security Council John Ullyot said in a statement.

"We will work with allies and the international community to hold those in Russia accountable, wherever the evidence leads, and restrict funds for their malign activities. The Russian people have a right to express their views peacefully without fear of retribution of any kind, and certainly not with chemical agents," he added.

A German military laboratory in a series of tests showed "unequivocal evidence" that Navalny had been poisoned with Novichok, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said in an emailed statement on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

"The federal government will inform its partners in the EU and NATO of the results of the investigation,” he added. “It will discuss an appropriate joint response with the partners in the light of the Russian response."

Navalny, 44, began feeling ill on a plane to Moscow on Aug. 20 after having had some tea at an airport cafe in Tomsk, Siberia. He was admitted to hospital on the same day after falling into a coma. He was airlifted to Germany on Aug. 22. He remains in a coma in intensive care at Berlin's Charite hospital. The hospital said that he is connected to a ventilator, and his symptoms are continuing to improve.

"Recovery is likely to be lengthy. It is still too early to gauge the long-term effects which may arise in relation to this severe poisoning," the hospital said on Sept. 2.

Russia’s Prosecutor-General’s Office said on Aug. 27 that a preliminary investigation by Russian police had so far uncovered no indications that a crime had been committed against Navalny. The police launched the investigation to “establish all the circumstances of the incident” after pressure from European and U.S. officials.
The office added that it had no basis to open a criminal investigation, asking to cooperate with its German counterparts, and requesting copies of medical documents, research, and biological samples from German specialists regarding Navalny's case, Russian state news agency TASS reported.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Russia's Rossiya-1 television channel on Wednesday that the German government's claims regarding Navalny's situation are part of an information campaign against Russia.

She said that since Russia's formal request to Germany for cooperation on the investigation, they had not yet received any formal response regarding Navalny's case. The Prosecutor-General’s Office had said in its statement that German law enforcement had replied indicating an “intention to cooperate.”

"The German government turned the microphone on and said what it said. As far as we understand, the target audience of today’s statements were the European Union and NATO. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was mentioned for some reason as well. All this was done instead of what should have been done first thing—a reply to the query from the Russian Prosecutor-General’s Office," she added.

Berlin on Wednesday promised to inform the Russian ambassador on the latest test results and asked Moscow to clarify the circumstances of the incident.

According to a statement on Wednesday night, Putin said any accusations directed at the Kremlin were “premature and unfounded” and voiced Russia's “interest in a thorough and objective investigation of all the circumstances of the incident.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said earlier on Wednesday that the use of Novichok on Nalvalny was an attempt to kill him. It is not yet clear who is responsible for the alleged poisoning.

"This is disturbing information about the attempted murder through poisoning against a leading Russian opposition figure," Merkel said at a news conference. "Alexei Navalny was the victim of an attack with a chemical nerve agent of the Novichok group."

Novichok, the name given to a series of chemical nerve agents, was developed by the Soviet Union and Russia between 1971 and 1993.

Reuters contributed to this report.