NATO Agrees Novichok Used on Navalny, Demands Probe

Russian police carry opposition leader Alexei Navalny, center, from a May 5, 2018, demonstration against President Vladimir Putin in Pushkin Square in Moscow. (AP Photo, File)

BRUSSELS (AP) — NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Friday condemned the “appalling assassination attempt” on Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny and called on Moscow to answer questions about the poisoning to international investigators.

Navalny, a Kremlin critic and corruption investigator, fell ill on a flight to Moscow on Aug. 20 and was taken to a hospital in the Siberian city of Omsk. He has been in an induced coma in a Berlin hospital since he was flown to Germany for treatment more than a week ago.

German authorities have said that tests showed that he had been poisoned with a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok group. British authorities previously identified the Soviet-era Novichok as the poison used on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England in 2018.

“There is proof beyond doubt that Mr. Navalny was poisoned using a military-grade nerve agent from the Novichok group. The use of such a weapon is horrific,” Stoltenberg said after chairing a meeting of NATO ambassadors during which Germany briefed its allies on developments.

“Any use of chemical weapons shows a total disrespect for human lives and is an unacceptable breach of international norms and rules. NATO allies agree that Russia now has serious questions it must answer,” he told reporters.

Stoltenberg said Moscow must cooperate with the international chemical weapons organization in “an impartial, international investigation” and provide information about its Novichok program.

After the attack in the English city of Salisbury in March 2018 —on the territory of a member of the 30-nation alliance — NATO withdrew the accreditation of seven staff at Russia’s mission there and rejected the applications of three others. No such action was announced on Friday.

President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman has brushed off allegations that the Kremlin was involved in poisoning the Russian leader’s most determined critic and said Thursday that Germany had not provided Moscow with any evidence about Navalny’s condition.

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