Dominic Raab: Russia must 'tell the truth' over Alexei Navalny Novichok poisoning

2 September 2020, 14:54 | Updated: 2 September 2020, 18:04

Alexei Navalny was poisoned with a nerve agent, the German government has said
Alexei Navalny was poisoned with a nerve agent, the German government has said. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has called on Russia to "tell the truth" over the poisoning of Russian politician Alexei Navalny with nerve agent Novichok.

A German government spokesman said on Wednesday that tests show "without doubt" that a nerve agent of the Novichok group was used to poison the Russian opposition politician.

Mr Raab said it was "absolutely unacceptable that this banned chemical weapon has been used again" and said the Russian government had a "clear case to answer."

Mr Navalny is a corruption investigator and one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's fiercest critics.

He was taken ill on a flight back to Moscow from Siberia on 20 August and was taken to a hospital in Omsk following an emergency landing.

He was later transferred to Berlin's Charite hospital, where doctors last week said there were indications he had been poisoned.

Following the German government's statement, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “I am deeply concerned that Alexey 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.

“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.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "It's outrageous that a chemical weapon was used against Alexei Navalny.

"We have seen first-hand the deadly consequences of Novichok in the UK.

"The Russian government must now explain what happened to Mr Navalny - we will work with international partners to ensure justice is done."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Mr Navalny was the victim of an "attempted murder by poisoning" and the aim was to silence him.

She said there are "very serious questions that only the Russian government can answer and must answer".

Her spokesman Steffen Seibert said tests undertaken by a special German military laboratory showed proof of "a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok group".

Mr Seibert said the German government will inform its partners in the European Union and Nato about the test results, and will consult with its partners in light of the Russian response "on an appropriate joint response".

Germany's foreign minister Heiko Maas said the Russian ambassador has been summoned and told that Berlin expects a full and transparent investigation.

The Kremlin said on Wednesday it had not been informed yet of Mr Navalny being poisoned with a nerve agent.

"Such information hasn't been relayed to us," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the state Tass news agency.

On Friday, Mr Navalny's doctors said his symptoms are improving and he is now stable, with "no immediate danger to his life" - although it "remains too early to gauge potential long-term effects".

Mr navalny's supporters believe that tea he drank was laced with poison - and that the Kremlin is behind both his illness and the delay in transferring him to a top German hospital.

The Russian doctors who treated him in Siberia have repeatedly contested the German hospital's conclusion, saying they had ruled out poisoning.

Moscow denies any involvement.

Police officers walk outside Omsk Ambulance Hospital No 1
Police officers walk outside Omsk Ambulance Hospital No 1. Picture: PA

Novichok was also used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, Hampshire, in 2018.

It is a class of military-grade nerve agents developed by the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War.

Western weapons experts say it was only ever manufactured in Russia.

After the Skripals were poisoned, Russia said the US, Britain and other Western countries acquired the expertise to make the nerve agent after the Soviet Union collapsed, and that the Novichok used in the attack could have come from them.

According to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, there is no record of Novichok having been declared by any nation that signed the chemical weapons convention.

Britain has charged two Russians - alleged to be agents of the Russian military intelligence service GRU - in absentia with the 2018 attack, which left the Skripals in a critical condition and killed a local woman.

Russia has refused to extradite the men to the UK.

British police believe the nerve agent was smuggled to Britain in a counterfeit Nina Ricci perfume bottle and sprayed on the front door of Sergei Skripal's house in Salisbury.

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.