A top ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that the EU risks becoming irrelevant if it fails to act against Russia over the poisoning of opposition politician Alexei Navalny.
Norbert Röttgen said a major gas deal with Russia must now be reconsidered.
The Russian government has been widely condemned after Germany confirmed on Wednesday that Mr. Navalny had been poisoned with a Novichok nerve gas.
He is gravely ill in medical care in Berlin’s Charité hospital.
Mr. Navalny was flown to the German capital after collapsing in pain on a flight in Siberia on 20 August. His supporters believe poison was put in his tea at Tomsk airport.
Mr. Röttgen, chair of the German parliament’s foreign affairs committee, demanded a troublesome EU response within the Navalny case. Novichok is a particularly toxic, military-grade weapon that experts say must have come from a state facility.
“Now, again, we are brutally confronted with the truth of the Putin regime, which treats people with contempt,” Mr. Röttgen told German public broadcaster ARD.
He noted that President Putin had projected Russian power in Syria, Libya, and Belarus, and said: “The question is, are the Europeans always getting to find yourself doing nothing? If so, then we’ll become irrelevant, we cannot be taken seriously.”
Earlier Mrs. Merkel said Mr. Navalny was a victim of attempted murder and therefore the world would look to Russia for answers.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said poisoning someone with a nerve agent “is considered a use of chemical weapons”. It called the alleged attack “a matter of grave concern” and pledged to help any state that asks for its help.
The Kremlin has not accepted the diagnosis in Germany, saying it has not seen German data on Mr. Navalny’s condition.
“There are no grounds to accuse the Russian state,” Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for President Putin, told reporters, adding that Germany and other EU nations should not “hurry with their assessments”.
Doubts over Russian gas deal
Mr. Röttgen warned that Germany would risk becoming hooked into Russia by completing Nord Stream 2, a controversial 1,225km (760-mile) gas pipeline owned by Russia’s Gazprom.
He also warned that doing so would encourage Mr. Putin to ignore Western protestations over the Navalny case and other attacks on his political opponents. Mr. Röttgen may be a candidate to succeed Mrs. Merkel as chancellor next year.
On Tuesday Mrs. Merkel reiterated her wish to ascertain Nord Stream 2 completed.
President Donald Trump has imposed sanctions on any firm that helps Gazprom to finish the project.
However, his critics are asking why he has not commented on the targeting of Mr. Navalny.
His rival within the presidential race, Joe Biden, accused the Kremlin of “an outrageous and brazen attempt on Mr. Navalny’s life”.
“Donald Trump has refused to confront Putin, calling him a ‘terrific person’,” Mr. Biden said.
Mr. Navalny was put into a medically induced coma after falling ill.
A team of German specialists has found “unequivocal proof” that a Novichok nerve agent was used.
The Charité hospital says it expects Mr. Navalny’s recovery to take a long time and cannot rule out long-term after-effects, but the agent’s blockage of his cholinesterase enzyme is declining.
On Wednesday the Kremlin spokesman called on Germany for a full exchange of data and foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova complained the Novichok allegations weren’t protected by evidence.