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G7 Ministers Urge Russia To Find Those Behind 'Abhorrent' Navalny Poisoning; UN Rights Chief Calls For Probe


U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet (file photo)
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet (file photo)

The foreign ministers of the Group of Seven nations have condemned the "confirmed poisoning" of Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny, and demanded that Russia quickly find and prosecute those behind the "abhorrent" attack.

"We, the G7 foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States of America and the High Representative of the European Union, are united in condemning, in the strongest possible terms, the confirmed poisoning" of Navalny, they said in a joint statement released by the U.S. State Department on September 8.

The top diplomats from the major industrial democracies also called on Russia "to urgently and fully establish transparency on who is responsible for this abhorrent poisoning attack and…to bring the perpetrators to justice."

Navalny, a 44-year-old anti-corruption campaigner who has led nationwide protests against Russian President Vladimir Putin, was flown to Germany on August 22, two days after falling ill on a flight in Siberia.

German experts say tests show that he was poisoned with a Soviet-style military-grade nerve agent from the Novichok group, prompting international calls on Russia to swiftly investigate the case.

Russian authorities have refused to open a criminal investigation, saying that no hard evidence of poisoning has been found.

The Kremlin has also vehemently denied allegations by Navalny’s team, his relatives, and others who believe that Russian authorities are behind the poisoning.

Navalny continues to be treated at Berlin’s Charite Hospital, which on September 7 said the Kremlin foe had been removed from his medically induced coma and that he was responding to verbal stimuli.

However, the hospital also said that it remains "too early to gauge the potential long-term effects of his severe poisoning."

Germany briefed the G7, which the United States is chairing this year, on its determination that Navalny "is the victim of an attack with a chemical nerve-agent of the 'Novichok' group, a substance developed by Russia," the G7 statement said.

"Any use of chemical weapons, anywhere, anytime, by anybody, under any circumstances whatsoever, is unacceptable and contravenes the international norms prohibiting the use of such weapons," it added.

The G7 ministers said that they will “continue to monitor closely how Russia responds to international calls for an explanation of the hideous poisoning."

The statement came on the same day as the United Nations high commissioner for human rights called for for the Russian government to "fully investigate" the poisoning of opposition politician Aleksei Navalny, calling the incident an "assassination attempt."

In her September 8 statement, High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said that German specialists have "unequivocal proof" that Navalny was poisoned by a Novichok nerve agent while flying from the Siberian city of Tomsk to Moscow.

"Navalny was clearly someone who needed state protection even if he was a political thorn in the side of the government," Bachelet said, noting that Navalny had been repeatedly harassed and attacked for years before the August 20 poisoning.

"It is not good enough to simply deny he was poisoned…It is incumbent on the Russian authorities to fully investigate who was responsible for this crime -- a very serious crime that was committed on Russian soil," she said.

Bachelet added that numerous "current or former Russian citizens" had been targeted for assassination by poison or other means both within Russia and abroad, saying it was "profoundly disturbing."

Among the Kremlin opponents who have been killed or targeted in recent years are investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, former Russian security officer Aleksandr Litvinenko, former Russian Deputy Prime Minister and opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, and former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal, among others.

Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were poisoned by Novichok in the British city of Salisbury in 2018, and British investigators have implicated Russian security agencies.

Germany’s minister for Europe, Michael Roth, said on September 8 that Berlin was looking at "the entire set of instruments" in deciding how to respond to Navalny's poisoning.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has said "only Russia can and must answer" questions about the case.

In the United States, the top Democrat and the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee are calling for a formal U.S. investigation into whether “Russia has used chemical weapons in violation of international law or has used lethal chemical weapons against its own nationals” — a request they say triggers a required 60-day evaluation period under the 1991 Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act.

In a letter on September 8, Eliot Engel (New York), the Democratic chairman of the committee, and Michael McCaul (Texas), the panel’s ranking member, urged President Donald Trump to enact additional sanctions on Russia if “the Russian government is once again determined to have used a chemical weapon against one of its own nationals.”

The White House last week described Navalny’s poisoning “completely reprehensible” and said Washington was working with the international community to "hold those in Russia accountable.”

Meanwhile, the German Embassy in Moscow told the Russian news agency TASS on September 8 that that the German ambassador would "take part in a discussion" at the Russian Foreign Ministry the next day.

The chief toxicologist of the Omsk region, where Navalny was treated after his flight to Moscow made an emergency landing in the city of Omsk, said on September 8 that "there wasn’t a single indication of poisoning" in the Navalny case.

Aleksandr Sabayev called the German diagnosis "just a fanciful assumption…with no documented or clinical proof."

With reporting by TASS, AP, Reuters, and AFP

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