Berlin insists its Bundeswehr [military] laboratory found traces of poison from the Novichok family in the anti-corruption campaigner’s system. Chancellor Angela Merkel has condemned the “attack” and demanded an explanation from Russia.
But the scientists behind its development – Leonid Rink and Vladimir Uglev – have dismissed the German claims. They say Novichok is supposed to be an extremely deadly nerve agent and there’s no way Navalny could have survived its application. Furthermore, Uglev has pointed out that others who interacted with the Moscow protest leader after he fell ill – fellow plane passengers, ambulance crews, etc. – would also have been contaminated.
“The symptoms are absolutely not similar,” Rink told media outlet RIA Novosti. According to him, if Novichok was used, Navalny would have had seizures, and he would have already died, instead of falling into a coma. “He’d be resting at the cemetery for a long time (already), that’s all,” the scientist explained.
“I believe that the use of chemical warfare substances: sarin, soman and Novichok (A-234) can be excluded from the list of possibilities,” Uglev informed another news agency Interfax. “Apart from Navalny himself, the people around him would be also stricken in one form or another.”
According to media reports, Uglev and Rink are among the founders of the Soviet Novichok chemical weapons programme. Until 1991, both of them worked at the Volsk branch of the State Research Institute of Organic Chemistry and Technology in Shikhany, part of the Saratov Region.
On August 20, a plane carrying Navalny made an emergency landing in Omsk after the blogger suddenly felt unwell on a flight from Siberia to Moscow. Navalny was taken to hospital in a coma and was put on a ventilator. On August 22, he was flown to Germany for treatment. German doctors said on August 24 that they had found signs of Navalny’s intoxication with substances from the cholinesterase inhibitors group. The doctors added that there was no threat to his life but there was the possibility of long-term effects on his nervous system.
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