Germany’s government says that Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny was poisoned with a Novichok gas.
It said toxicology tests at a military laboratory showed proof of an agent from the Novichok group.
Mr. Navalny was airlifted to Berlin for treatment after falling ill during a flight in Russia’s Siberia region last month. He has been in a coma since then.
His team says he was poisoned on President Vladimir Putin’s orders. The Kremlin has dismissed the allegation.
A Novichok nerve agent was used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK in 2018. While they survived, another woman later died in hospital.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Mr. Navalny was the victim of attempted murder and there were now “serious questions that only the Russian government can and must answer”.
“Someone tried to silence him and within the name of the entire German government I condemn that within the strongest terms.”
The Kremlin said it had not received any information from Germany that Mr. Navalny had been poisoned employing a Novichok nerve gas, Russia’s Tass press agency reported.
Chancellor Merkel said Germany’s Nato and EU partners had been informed of the results of the investigation and they would decide on a common and appropriate response based on Russia’s reaction.
Mr. Navalny’s wife Yulia Navalnaya and Russia’s ambassador to Germany would also be informed of the findings, the Berlin government said.
What happened to Navalny?
He fell ill on a flight from Tomsk to Moscow. His supporters suspect poison was placed during a cup of tea at Tomsk airport.
The flight of the prominent Putin critic was diverted to Omsk, where doctors treated him for 3 days before he was transferred to the Charité hospital in Berlin.
The Kremlin says Russian doctors administered atropine – which may be wont to treat the consequences of nerve agents – but found no evidence of poisoning.
Mrs. Navalnaya said she feared Russian doctors had delayed his transfer as authorities were trying to attend for evidence of any chemical substance to disappear.
Doctors said his condition is serious but not life-threatening.
What is Novichok?
The name Novichok means “newcomer” in Russian and applies to a gaggle of advanced nerve agents developed by the Soviet Union within the 1970s and 1980s.
Novichok agents have similar effects to other nerve agents – they act by blocking messages from the nerves to the muscles, causing a collapse of the many bodily functions.
While some Novichok agents are liquids, others are thought to exist in solid form. This means they will be dispersed as an ultra-fine powder.
Novichoks were designed to be more toxic than other chemical weapons, so some versions begin to require effect rapidly – within the order of 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
In 2018, Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were left critically ill within the British city of Salisbury, after Russian suspects were imagined to have smeared the nerve gas on the door handle of the former Russian spy’s home.
Dawn Sturgess, 44, was later exposed to equivalent nerve gas and died in hospital. Her partner became critically ill but recovered.
Who is Navalny?
Mr. Navalny is an anti-corruption campaigner who has led nationwide protests against the Russian authorities. He has called Mr. Putin’s party an area of “crooks and thieves” that’s “sucking the blood out of Russia”.
However, he has been banned from standing against Mr. Putin in elections due to a conviction for embezzlement.
There are a variety of previous attacks on high-profile critics or opponents of President Putin, including politicians, intelligence officers, and journalists. The Kremlin has always denied involvement.