The UK is undecided on the action to take against Moscow over the alleged poisoning of opposition figure Alexey Navalny, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said, claiming it hinges on the findings of chemical arms watchdog the OPCW.
“We haven’t yet attributed” what happened to anti-corruption activist and blogger Navalny “to the FSB [Russia’s Federal Security Service] or the Russian state, but I think there is an incredibly strong case for Moscow to answer,” Raab told a parliamentary committee.
As for possible sanctions, the Foreign Secretary said the United Kingdom will have to consider what further action it takes. London will look carefully at the outcome of the report by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in formulating its response, Raab added.
On Tuesday, the British delegation to the OPCW said in a statement there was “no doubt” that Navalny was poisoned by the Russian-designed nerve agent Novichok.
The OPCW said its tests have confirmed the presence of toxic substances in the blood and urine of the opposition activist, samples of which were provided by Germany. While the watchdog has never mentioned Novichok, its report suggests the “cholinesterase inhibitor” it found is similar to a substance banned under the Chemical Weapons Convention and “not listed in the Annex on Chemicals to the Convention.”
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On August 20, Navalny fell ill on a flight from the Siberian city of Tomsk to Moscow. The plane had to make an emergency landing in Omsk, also in Siberia, so he might be rushed to hospital. Two days later, Navalny – who was in medically induced coma – was flown to the Charité clinic in Berlin at the request of his family. After performing tests, German medical experts ruled he had been poisoned with a substance from the Novichok group of nerve agents.
However, his Russian doctors publicly stated they had found no trace of any known poison at the time of his admission to hospital.
Navalny has since emerged from his coma and been discharged from hospital. He blames Vladimir Putin for making an attempt on his life – a claim the Kremlin has rejected.
The Russian authorities have repeatedly denied any involvement in his case, while also questioning the very fact of his poisoning. Meanwhile, Germany has been reluctant to provide to Moscow the samples that would prove the use of a nerve agent.
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The chemical agent dubbed Novichok first made headlines in 2018 after the poisoning of double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK city of Salisbury. Back then, London said Moscow was “highly likely” responsible for the attack and introduced sanctions against Russia. Two years on, Britain hasn’t yet put forward any convincing evidence to support its claim.
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