Skip to main content
Russia - Navalny

France condemns Navalny poisoning as Kremlin denies involvement

Alexei Navalny participating in a march to commemorate opposition leader Boris Nemtsov in Mosco on 29 February 2020.
Alexei Navalny participating in a march to commemorate opposition leader Boris Nemtsov in Mosco on 29 February 2020. AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin
Text by: David Coffey with RFI
5 min

Despite a broad denunciation by France and Western allies, the Kremlin brushed off allegations on Tuesday that Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was the victim of an intentional poisoning orchestrated by authorities, stating there are no grounds for a criminal investigation.

Advertising

France has condemned as a "criminal act" the apparent poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. In a statement released Tuesday, the French foreign ministry demanded that the Russian authorities undertake a “quick and transparent investigation…those responsible for this act must be identified and brought to justice”.

The previous evening, doctors who are treating Navalny in Berlin concluded that the opposition leader had been poisoned by « a substance belonging to the group of cholinesterase inhibitors,” but were unable to immediately specify which one. These inhibitors are occasionally used in small doses to treat Alzheimer’s disease, but depending on the dosage, can be extremely dangerous and produce potent neurotoxin, such as the Novichok nerve agent.

The insistence by the Russian government that Navalny wasn't necessarily poisoned — comments amplified by Russian doctors and pro-Kremlin media — came a day after doctors at the German hospital where the 44-year-old is being treated said tests indicated he was poisoned.

German army emergency personnel load into their ambulance the stretcher that was used to transport Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny on August 22, 2020 at Berlin's Charite hospital, where Navalny will be treated after his medical evacuation to Germany following a suspected poisoning. - Navalny was critically ill in a hospital in Siberia after a suspected poisoning, a small Berlin-based NGO has been leading the charge to bring him from hospital in the city of Omsk to Germany for treatment.
German army emergency personnel load into their ambulance the stretcher that was used to transport Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny on August 22, 2020 at Berlin's Charite hospital, where Navalny will be treated after his medical evacuation to Germany following a suspected poisoning. - Navalny was critically ill in a hospital in Siberia after a suspected poisoning, a small Berlin-based NGO has been leading the charge to bring him from hospital in the city of Omsk to Germany for treatment. AFP - ODD ANDERSEN

Moscow will not take the charges seriously

Moscow's dismissals elicited outrage from Navalny's allies, who say the Kremlin was behind the illness of its most prominent critic. 

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the accusations against the government “absolutely cannot be true and are rather an empty noise.” 

“We do not intend to take it seriously," Peskov said. 

Peskov said he saw no grounds for launching a criminal investigation at this stage, saying that Navalny's condition could have been triggered by a variety of causes and determining what it was should come before such a probe.

“If a substance (that caused the condition) is found, and if it is determined that it is poisoning, then there will be a reason for an investigation,” Peskov said. 

Navalny's supporters says he was poisoned by a cup of tea at a Siberian airport
Navalny's supporters says he was poisoned by a cup of tea at a Siberian airport AFP

Treatment in Berlin

Navalny, a politician and corruption investigator who is one of Putin’s fiercest critics, fell ill on a flight back to Moscow from Siberia on Thursday and was taken to a hospital in the city of Omsk after the plane made an emergency landing. 

Over the weekend, he was transferred to the Charité hospital in Berlin, where doctors on Monday said they have found indications of the “cholinesterase inhibitors” in his system.

These act by blocking the breakdown of a key chemical in the body, acetycholine, that transmits signals between nerve cells.

Navalny is being treated with the antidote atropine

Parliament speaker claims Western Plot

Chancellor Angela Merkel personally offered Germany's help in treating Navalny and has called for a full Russian investigation — a sentiment echoed Tuesday by officials from the United States, France and Norway. 

 U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that if reports about Navalny’s poisoning “prove accurate, the United States supports the EU’s call for a comprehensive investigation and stands ready to assist in that effort.” 

In response to statements from European officials, the speaker of the State Duma, Russia's lower parliament house, charged Tuesday that Navalny's condition could have resulted from a Western plot. 

Doctors in Omsk said they tested the politician for cholinesterase inhibitors and didn't find any. 

Western experts have cautioned that it is far too early to draw any conclusions about how the agent may have entered Navalny's system, but note that Novichok, the Soviet-era nerve agent used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK in 2018, was a cholinesterase inhibitor. 

   

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning

Page not found

The content you requested does not exist or is not available anymore.