The Kremlin has rebuffed German claims that opposition politician Alexei Navalny’s was poisoned and for now ruled out any investigation into how he ended up in a coma.
- Mr Navalny was airlifted to Germany for treatment after collapsing on a plane
- An investigation would be launched if poisoning was established, the Kremlin said
- German doctors said there are indications of poisoning, but the specific substance not yet known
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday (local time) called on Russia to investigate the suspected poisoning and to hold the perpetrators accountable after German doctors found indications of a toxic substance in his body.
But Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the German clinic had not conclusively identified the substance behind Mr Navalny’s illness and that it was unclear why German doctors were “rushing” to use the word poisoning.
“If the substance is identified and it is determined it was a poisoning, then, of course, this will be a reason for an investigation,” he added.
Demands for a probe are intensifying, with Sweden’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde saying on Twitter that the “circumstances regarding the suspected poisoning of @navalny need to be clarified by independent investigation.”
France’s Foreign ministry also called for an independent and transparent investigation.
“It is vital that Russian authorities conduct a prompt and transparent investigation to establish the circumstances in which this act was committed”, the ministry said in a statement.
French President Emmanuel Macron said last week France was ready to give Mr Navalny all necessary assistance, including asylum.
Russian health officials contradict German diagnosis
Mr Navalny, an outspoken opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was airlifted to Germany for treatment on Saturday after collapsing on a plane while flying back to Moscow from Siberia.
German doctors treating Mr Navalny at a Berlin hospital said medical examinations indicated poisoning with some kind of cholinesterase inhibitor, although the specific substance is not yet known.
Russian health officials contradicted that diagnosis, saying Mr Navalny had tested negative for cholinesterase inhibitors when he was hospitalised in Omsk last week.
Mr Peskov said doctors at the Omsk hospital had battled for three days to treat Mr Navalny and had possibly saved his life.
Mr Navalny has been a thorn in the Kremlin’s side for more than a decade, exposing what he says is high-level graft, while also mobilising anti-government protests.
He has been repeatedly detained for organising public meetings, sued over corruption investigations and barred from running in the 2018 presidential election.
Mr Peskov said any suggestions that Mr Putin was somehow involved in Mr Navalny’s illness was “hot air”, which the Kremlin would not take seriously.
Germany said Mr Navalny was being guarded due to concerns for his safety.
Mr Navalny’s wife was filmed entering the hospital but declined to speak.