An outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin has been poisoned with Soviet-style Novichok but Moscow has denied any involvement in the crime.

The German government revealed on Wednesday that tests performed on samples taken from Alexei Navalny showed that the Russian opposition politician had been poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok. In a statement, the German government said testing conducted by a special German military laboratory showed proof that Navalny had been attacked with the chemical weapon widely used in Russia.

“It is a dismaying event that Alexei Navalny was the victim of an attack with a chemical nerve agent in Russia,” said German chancellor spokesperson Steffen Seibert. “The German government condemns this attack in the strongest terms. The Russian government is urgently requested to provide clarifications over the incident,” he added.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany would consult its NATO allies about how to respond to the incident and would ask Moscow to explain its alleged involvement in the poisoning. The Russian foreign ministry earlier denied Moscow’s involvement in the incident, saying Germany’s accusation is not backed by solid evidence. Russian presidential spokesperson Dmitri Peskov also denied that Russia had been informed of the findings of the German lab.

In 2018, Moscow was accused of using the substance Novichok against a Russian double agent and his daughter during an attack in England. The Soviet military developed the deadly group of nerve agents as a chemical weapon between the 1970s and 1980s.

The U.S. National Security Council warned on Twitter that Washington would work with its allies “to hold those in Russia accountable, wherever the evidence leads, and restrict funds for their malign activities.” The White House also described the use of Novichok as “completely reprehensible,” adding that Navalny’s poisoning only showed that Putin was willing to be “bold” in killing individuals opposing him.

A longtime opponent of Vladimir Putin, Navalny specializes in high-impact investigations into official corruption. Last month, he was airlifted to Germany after collapsing on a domestic Russian flight after drinking a cup of tea which his allies believed was poisoned.

Vladimir Putin
Presidente ruso Vladimir Putin, reunion en Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi, October 24, 2014. Reuters/Mikhail Klimentyev/RIA Novosti/Kremlin

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