Navalny case is 'heavy burden' for Russia's leaders -German president
BERLIN, Sept 4- The poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who is in intensive care in a Berlin hospital, is damaging to Russia’s leadership and makes it harder for Germany to cooperate with Moscow, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said. Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday Navalny was poisoned with a Soviet-style Novichok nerve agent in an…
BERLIN, Sept 4 (Reuters) – The poisoning of Kremlin critic
Alexei Navalny, who is in intensive care in a Berlin hospital,
is damaging to Russia’s leadership and makes it harder for
Germany to cooperate with Moscow, German President Frank-Walter
Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday Navalny waspoisoned with a Soviet-style Novichok nerve agent in an attemptto murder him and that Berlin would consult its NATO alliesabout how to respond.
Russia has said there is no evidence of a crime when Navalnyfell ill in Siberia last month and until now not opened acriminal investigation.
Steinmeier, a former German foreign minister with the SocialDemocrats (SPD), told media group RND that Moscow must explainwhat had happened to Navalny.
“The fact that opposition and critical voices in Russia haveto fear for their health or their lives is without doubt a heavyburden on the credibility of the Russian leadership and makescooperation more difficult,” he said in comments released onFriday.
“We do not want hostility towards Russia or the Russianpeople. But injustice must be called out clearly.”
The firm tone to his comments is significant as many SPDpoliticians tread a softer line on Russia ties than members ofMerkel’s conservatives, some of whom want to reconsider the NordStream 2 pipeline, which will take gas from Russia to Germany.
The SPD is now junior partner in Merkel’s ruling coalition.
Steinmeier said it was up to Berlin to draw the consequencesof the case “in coordination with our European partners”.
“Navalny has been severely poisoned with the aim ofsilencing him. The most urgent questions are now directed at thegovernment in Moscow.”
Navalny, 44, is an outspoken opponent of Russian PresidentVladimir Putin and has specialised in high-impact investigationsinto official corruption. He was airlifted to Germany last monthafter collapsing on a domestic Russian flight after drinking acup of tea that his allies said was poisoned.(Writing by Paul CarrelEditing by Mark Heinrich)
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