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France and Sweden confirm Navalny’s poisoning from Novichok, backing Germany

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BERLIN laboratories in France and Sweden have confirmed that the substance used to poison Russian opposition leader Alexei A. Navalny was indeed a form of Novichok nerve agent, the German government said on Monday, results that are consistent with Berlin’s own findings and provide additional confidence that the Russian state was involved.

Three laboratories have now independently provided evidence of a substance from the Novichok group as the cause of Mr Navalnys poisoning, a German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement. We renew the call for Russia to explain what happened.

Mr Navalny, whose room at the prestigious Charit hospital in Berlin remains heavily guarded by German police, continues to improve, the hospital said on Monday. He is breathing on his own again and is able to walk. He is increasingly being mobilized and is permanently able to leave his sick bed, the statement reads.

Russian officials did not immediately respond to reports of results from French and Swedish laboratories, but they have insisted since Mr Navalny first fell ill that there was no evidence that he had been poisoned. They have suggested several alternative theories, including an overdose of medication and low blood sugar.

In his statement, Mr Seibert described Novichok’s use of a class of powerful chemical weapons developed by the Soviet Union and used at least once in an assassination attempt by Russian intelligence operatives as a violation of the Arms Convention. Chemical, of which Russia is a signatory.

But while patience with President Vladimir V. Putin is waning, Berlin is trying to find a good way to respond. Some have suggested canceling the $ 11 billion Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, which is nearing completion. So far, however, the German government, along with the United States and its European allies, has taken no action other than raising the prospect of additional sanctions on Russia.

Episode is the last episode in German-Russian relations, which is close but complex and increasingly contradictory.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has been unusually clear in her harsh condemnation of increasingly brazen actions and lack of cooperation. Mr Navalny’s poisoning came less than a year after a former Chechen rebel leader was killed during the day in a park in Berlin, a murder that German federal prosecutors believe was orchestrated by the Russian state.

Ms Merkel, who normally talks to Mr Putin on the phone at least once a week, has not spoken to him since Mr Navalny’s poisoning, said a senior German security official.

French President Emmanuel Macron raised the issue of Mr Navalny’s poisoning in a phone call with Mr Putin on Monday, confirming the results of the French laboratory and expressing serious concern about Mr Navalny’s poisoning. Navalnys. He demanded that the circumstances and responsibilities of this attempted assassination be brought to light, without delay, according to a reading of the call given by the French government. The reading did not include Mr. Putin’s response.

Ms Merkel has been one of the toughest leaders in Europe when it comes to Russia, seeking a strong line to maintain economic sanctions against Moscow following the 2014 invasion of Ukraine, even in the face of deportations to other capitals and capitals. .

But she has also worked hard to keep diplomatic lines to Moscow open. The two countries have deep economic ties, no less in the energy market, and a significant faction in German politics believes Russia should be an important partner.

Mrs Merkel seems to be treading carefully once again at least for now.

German officials did not raise Mr Navalny’s poisoning last week when Dmitry Kozak, a close confidant of Mr Putin, was allowed to land in Berlin for talks on the war in Ukraine, despite a travel ban.

German officials have refused to rule out a reassessment of the Nord Stream 2 project, which would link Russia and Germany directly. Ms Merkel has long defended the project and experts say it is unlikely the project will be canceled as part of the response to the poisoning.

The German response so far contrasts with the Britains reaction in 2018, following the poisoning of Sergei V. Skripal, a former Russian spy, in the English town of Salisbury. After the British government announced that Russian operatives had used a Novichok-class poison in that case, it gave the Kremlin 24 hours to respond, after which it imposed sanctions and rallied allies to expel dozens of Russian diplomats.

But German officials insist Mr Navalny’s poisoning is not a bilateral issue between Germany and Russia. Unlike Mr. Skripal, z. Navalny was on Russian soil when he became seriously ill, and only later was transported to a Berlin hospital.

German officials are considering a range of possible sanctions, including individual travel bans and asset freezes, and hoping for a response backed by all European Union member states. We want this to be a European sanctions regime to show that this has to do with our values ​​when a leading opposition politician is poisoned, said a senior German security official involved in discussions of a possible response. It is not a bilateral issue.

The official said that while it was important to send a message that Russia’s behavior was out of line, it should not come at the expense of ongoing negotiations on issues like the wars in Ukraine and Syria, where Russia is a key player.

This is a terrible thing, we should sanction it, but it will not lead to a completely new policy of Russia, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to speak honestly about internal discussions. The difficult reality is: We need Russia in Ukraine, Libya, Syria. We do not want everything to collapse.

Mr. Navalnys’s recovery may also affect the eventual response. Although he emerged from a medical-induced coma last week, his doctors have not yet ruled out long-term complications from poisoning.

Traces of the poison were found in samples taken by Mr Navalny at a hospital in Berlin, but also, most importantly, in a water bottle he had traveled with from Russia, German officials said. German officials have rejected Moscow’s request for evidence that Mr Navalny had been poisoned inside Russia, noting that Russian authorities had taken their samples and confiscated dozens of items before he flew to Germany. They have their evidence, an official said.

Catherine Bennhold reported from Berlin and Michael Schwirtz from London. Aurelien Breeden contributed to the report from Paris.

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