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Attempted poisoning of Alexei Navalny causes diplomatic repercussions for Russia

Anirudh Bhat

21st September 2020

Paramedics wheel Navalny into an ambulance in Germany. (Source: www.france24.com)

After spending nearly thirty-two days under medical supervision, Alexay Navalny, the most prominent figure of the Opposition and anti-corruption activist, who was allegedly poisoned by a suspected nerve agent, was released from Charité Hospital in Berlin. Navalny’s discharge comes in the face souring relations with many countries for Russia — European leaders have collectively called for Russia to examine and clarify the utilisation of a banned chemical agent on its soil. United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson immediately criticised the incident as an ‘outrageous’ act and requested a clarification from Moscow.

The French minister for Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian commented in an interview with France Inter radio, that it was "fundamental and essential for the Russian authorities to set up immediately the conditions wherein the utilisation of a nerve agent against Mr. Navalny was even conceivable."

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen proclaimed the assault "despicable and cowardly" and demanded the culprits be "brought to justice," while NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg ‘utterly condemned’ the utilisation of this nerve agent, expressing it is "even more urgent that Russia conducts a full and transparent investigation." 

Kremlin representative Dmitry Peskov told journalists in a press conference that there were "no grounds whatsoever to accuse the Russian state." Russian state-backed media have effectively attempted to discredit the German discoveries with a barrage of accusations — some deny Navalny was poisoned by any means, and others outline the assault as a detailed Western plot to destabilise Russia inside.

It is presumed that Navalny was poisoned in a politically motivated attack because of his work. Although the Russian Interior Ministry announced an investigation into the matter in an attempt to pacify the growing criticism, Russian prosecutors have made little headway and official criminal investigation of the poisoning remains to be opened.

Navalny was allegedly poisoned by a suspected nerve agent and was hospitalised in serious condition. It is purported that his tea was poisoned before his flight from Tomsk to Moscow. During the flight, he became violently ill and was taken to a hospital in Omsk after an emergency landing there and placed in a coma. Navalny was evacuated to the Charité hospital in Berlin, Germany two days later. On September 2, the German government said that it had "unequivocal evidence" that Navalny was poisoned by a Novichok agent and had called on the Russian government for an explanation.

Sources: Forbes, CSIS

Edited by Mridula Kumar

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