MOSCOW – Russia's Foreign Ministry has summoned the German ambassador to hand him a strongly-worded protest over what it described as Berlin's unfounded accusations of Moscow's involvement in the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
Navalny, a fierce, high-profile critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was flown to Germany last month after falling ill on Aug. 20 on a domestic flight in Russia. German chemical weapons experts say tests show the 44-year-old was poisoned with a Soviet-era nerve agent, prompting the German government last week to demand that Russia investigate the case.
The German hospital treating him said Monday that Navalny's condition has improved, allowing doctors to take him out of an induced coma.
Russia has demanded that German authorities provide its prosecutors with the data that led them to conclude “without doubt” that Navalny was poisoned with a military nerve agent from the Novichok group, the same class of Soviet-era agent that British authorities said was used on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England in 2018.
On Wednesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry invited German Ambassador Geza Andreas von Geyr to protest what it called “unfounded accusations and ultimatums" against Russia put forward by the German government. It charged that Berlin has used the Navalny case ”as a pretext to discredit our country on the global arena."
The ministry said it reaffirmed Moscow's demand for German authorities to provide Russian authorities with the medical data, including biological materials, the results of samples and tests to allow Russian experts to study and check them. Russian doctors previously said they had found no sign of Navalny's poisoning.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said it warned the German ambassador that Russia will see Berlin's failure to provide the materials as a “refusal to determine the truth through an objective investigation." It warned that the failure to produce the information as an indication that the German actions have been part of a “hostile provocation against Russia fraught with consequences for the Russian-German relations and a serious exacerbation of the international situation.”
Asked about Russia’s claim that Germany has failed to provide evidence to back up its allegation that Navalny was poisoned with Novichok, a spokesman for Germany’s Defense Ministry said the data had been provided to the Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
“This international organization, of which Russia is also a member, has a treaty-based mandate to oversee and enforce the ban on the use, production, storage as well as research into chemical weapons,” the spokesman, Arne Collatz, told reporters in Berlin.
German government spokeswoman Martina Fietz said that “you can assume that all the conditions have been met for the OPCW to do its work.”
Earlier this week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office indicated that she might be willing to rethink the fate of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that will bring Russian gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea — a sign of Berlin’s growing frustration over Moscow’s stonewalling about the Navalny case.
Other Western countries joined Germany in calling for a full investigation, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week calling the use of a chemical weapon “outrageous.” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany has called the poisoning “completely reprehensible,” adding that the U.S. was “working with our allies and the international community to hold those in Russia accountable.”
Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed to this report.