BERLIN – Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was poisoned with the same type of Soviet-era nerve agent used in a 2018 attack on a former Russian spy, the German government said Wednesday, provoking outrage from Western leaders who demanded Moscow provide an explanation.
The findings — which experts say point strongly to Russian state involvement — added to tensions between Russia and the West. German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Navalny's poisoning attempted murder, meant to silence one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critics.
The Berlin hospital treating the dissident said he remains on a ventilator though his condition is improving. It said it expects a long recovery and still can’t rule out long-term effects on his health from the poisoning.
The German government said that testing by a German military laboratory showed “proof without doubt of a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok group.” British authorities identified Novichok as the poison used on former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England.
“There are very serious questions now that only the Russian government can answer, and must answer,” Merkel said.
The United Kingdom and Italy also called on Russia to explain what happened, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling the use of a chemical weapon “outrageous.” In Washington, National Security Council spokesman John Ullyot tweeted that it was “completely reprehensible.”
“We will work with allies and the international community to hold those in Russia accountable, wherever the evidence leads,” Ullyot said.
The European Union's foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, said any use of chemical weapons was "a breach of international law.”