Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was poisoned with the same type of Soviet-era nerve agent that British authorities identified in a 2018 attack on a former Russian spy, the German government said Wednesday, citing new test results.
The Berlin hospital treating Navalny said he remains in serious condition, though his condition is improving. The facility said that it expects a long recovery, and it still can’t rule out long-term consequences from the poisoning.
The government said that testing by a special German military laboratory at the hospital’s request showed “proof without doubt of a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok group.”
“With this, it is certain that Alexei Navalny is the victim of a crime,” Chancellor Angela Merkel said. “He was meant to be silenced and I condemn this in the strongest possible manner.”
“There are very serious questions now that only the Russian government can answer, and must answer,” Merkel said, describing what happened to Navalny as “the attempted murder by poisoning of one of Russia’s leading opposition figures.”
Navalny, a politician and corruption investigator who is one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critics, fell ill on a flight back to Moscow from Siberia on Aug. 20 and was taken to a hospital in the Siberian city of Omsk after the plane made an emergency landing.
He was later transferred to Berlin’s Charite hospital, where doctors last week said there were indications that he had been poisoned.
British authorities identified Novichok as the substance used on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in 2018. It is a cholinesterase inhibitor, part of the class of substances that doctors at Charite initially identified in Navalny.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the Russian ambassador was summoned to his ministry Wednesday and told in “unmistakable” terms of Germany’s call for the Navalny case to be investigated “in full and with full transparency.”
“We now know that there was an attack with a chemical nerve agent,” Maas said. “That makes it even more urgent to determine who was responsible in Russia and to hold them to account.”