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Germany’s Merkel claims someone wanted to ‘silence’ Navalny, but spokesman says ‘poisoning’ revelation won’t affect Nord Stream 2

Merkel was referring to tests carried out the by the Bundeswehr [German military] which found that the anti-corruption campaigner was “beyond doubt” poisoned with a ‘Novichok’ class chemical agent. Describing Navalny as “the leading opposition politician in Russia,” an assertion not borne out by Russian polling, she said somebody wanted to “silence” him.

The Chancellor added that Moscow “must answer”, adding “I want to use this opportunity to express my sympathy to Alexey Navalny.” She said she had already held a phone conversation with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and before that – a joint meeting with the ministers of finance, justice, defense and the interior.

Earlier, a government spokesman said Berlin believes that it is wrong to link the Nord Stream 2 project with the Navalny incident. Ulrike Demmer referred to the words of Merkel herself, who said last week that the gas pipeline should be completed. “From the Chancellor’s point of view, it would be inappropriate to link this project, which is being implemented on the part of business, with the situation around Navalny.”

Once completed the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project will bring a total capacity of 55 bn cubic meters of gas per year from the coast of Russia through the Baltic Sea to Germany. To date, 93.5% of Nord Stream 2 has been finished. The construction was suspended at the end of 2019 when the Swiss pipe-laying company Allseas stopped work due to US sanctions. The German government has repeatedly spoken in favor of the project, despite pressure from many of its western allies.

On Wednesday afternoon, the German government announced that the Bundeswehr laboratory had found traces of poison from the Novichok family in Navalny’s system. Germany condemned the “attack” and demanded an explanation from Russia. The Kremlin said it had received no information from German authorities about the poisoning of Navalny by Novichok. Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry added it was still waiting for Germany to reply to an official request from the office of Russia’s Prosecutor General regarding the opposition figure’s condition.

The US has already threatened to punish Russia with sanctions, and a government spokesman said on Wednesday that Germany would discuss “an appropriate joint response” with leaders in the European Union and Washington.

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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