Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was poisoned with the same type of Soviet-era nerve agent that British authorities identified in a 2018 attack on a former Russian spy, Germany has said.
The German government said testing by a German military laboratory showed “proof without doubt of a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok group”.
The Berlin hospital treating Navalny said he remains in a serious condition though he is improving.
The findings – which experts say point strongly to Russian state involvement – are likely to increase tensions between Russia and the West.
It said it expects a long recovery, and it still cannot rule out long-term consequences from the poisoning.
Here is how world leaders and organisations reacted to the news:
The Kremlin said Russia was ready to cooperate fully with Germany.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists: “In general, we confirm that we are ready and have an interest in full cooperation and exchange of data on this topic with Germany.”
Peskov complained that Russia had not received an answer to its request for German doctors to share their findings.
He insisted that before Navalny was evacuated to Berlin on August 22, Russia had not found traces of poisoning, reflecting earlier statements by doctors.
France said the use of Novichok against Russia’s Navalny was “shocking and irresponsible”.
“I want to condemn in the strongest terms the shocking and irresponsible use of such an agent,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement.
Calling on Russia to explain what had happened, he added: “Given Mr Navalny’s political status in Russia, the attack against him raises serious questions. It is the responsibility of the Russian authorities to respond to them.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the news was “outrageous” and urged Moscow to “explain” what had happened.
“We have seen first-hand the deadly consequences of Novichok in the UK,” Johnson said on Twitter.
“The Russian government must now explain what happened to Mr Navalny – we will work with international partners to ensure justice is done,” Johnson said.
The UK’s Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said in a separate statement that Russia “must tell the truth” about what had occurred.
It’s outrageous that a chemical weapon was used against Alexey Navalny. We have seen first-hand the deadly consequences of Novichok in the UK. The Russian government must now explain what happened to Mr Navalny – we will work with international partners to ensure justice is done.
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) September 2, 2020
Chancellor Merkel said she strongly condemned the poisoning, saying he is the “victim of a crime”.
“The aim was to silence him and I strongly condemn this [crime] in the name of the German government,” Merkel said during a news conference.
Merkel announced that Germany was notifying its EU and NATO partners about the test results in order to decide on “an appropriate, joint reaction”.
The White House said it is “deeply troubled” by confirmation in Germany.
“Alexei Navalny’s poisoning is completely reprehensible,” National Security Council spokesman John Ullyot said on Twitter.
“We will work with allies and the international community to hold those in Russia accountable, wherever the evidence leads, and restrict funds for their malign activities.
“The Russian people have a right to express their views peacefully without fear of retribution of any kind, and certainly not with chemical agents.”
The EU chief Ursula von der Leyen denounced what she called the “despicable and cowardly” poisoning of Navalny.
Those responsible should be brought to justice, she said.
“This is a despicable and cowardly act – once again. Perpetrators need to be brought to justice,” she added.