It will be impossible to avoid introducing new sanctions against Russia if the OPCW confirms the German military's assessment on Alexei Navalny's suspected poisoning, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has announced.
"If the results of the German, Swedish and French laboratories are confirmed, there will be a clear response from the European Union," Maas said, speaking to online news portal t-online in an interview published Saturday.
"I am convinced that in that case sanctions will be impossible to avoid," the foreign minister added.
Asked which individuals or entities such new sanctions would target, Maas said that they must be "targeted and proportionate."
"But such a grave violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention cannot go unanswered. We agree on that in Europe," the German top diplomat added.
Asked if the sanctions could include restrictions against the $9.5 billion Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, Maas said that "one has to consider carefully what conclusions can be drawn from the Navalny case. Over 100 European companies are involved in the pipeline project, half of them are German. Many European workers would suffer from a freeze in construction."
Moscow Welcomes Objective Investigationwould welcome a joint investigation by specialists from the OPCW and from Russia on the Navalny 'poisoning' case. Before that, Moscow slammed the organization's provision of technical assistance to Berlin on the Navalny case without Russia's consent, and said it was worth remembering that "we are talking about events that took place not in Germany, but in Russia."
This week, Navalny accused the Russian government and President Putin personally of poisoning him, saying he doesn't have "any other versions" of what might have happened to him. The Kremlin responded by revealing that Moscow "has information" that Navalny is cooperating with the Central Intelligence Agency, and that he had received instructions from the US intelligence agency in the past. It also called Navalny's claims "absolutely groundless," "extremely insulting and unacceptable."
Alexei Navalny, probably the best known liberal opposition figure outside Russia, fell gravely ill during a domestic flight to Moscow from the Siberian city of Tomsk on August 20. After his plane made an emergency landing in Omsk, another Siberian city, Navalny was taken to hospital, where doctors worked around the clock for nearly two days to save his life and stabilize his condition, putting him into an artificial coma. On August 22, he was taken by charter flight to a Berlin clinic. There, he gradually recovered, before being discharged late last month.Novichok, a deadly nerve agent designed for use by the Soviet military in the 1970s. Moscow asked to see the alleged evidence which Berlin used to reach this conclusion, but has not been provided any information to date. Furthermore, the German doctors treating Navalny broke off contact with their Russian counterparts shortly after Navalny's transfer to Germany.
Last week, Dr. Leonid Rink, the State Research Institute of Organic Chemistry & Technology researcher who played a major role in the creation of Novichok, categorically dismissed the claim that Navalny could have been poisoned by Novichok, telling Sputnik that if he had been, the opposition politician would have been dead before making it to his plane.