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Kremlin critic was poisoned with nerve agent, German government says

The German government has said toxicological exams at Berlin’s Charité hospital have yielded “unequivocal proof” that Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent.

Navalny, a strong critic of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, fell ill on a flight back to Moscow from Siberia on 20 August and was transferred to Berlin two days later.

Steffen Seibert, spokesman for the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said in a statement that testing by a special military laboratory had shown proof of a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok group.

Novichok, a Soviet-era nerve agent, was used to poison the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain. It is a cholinesterase inhibitor, part of the class of substances that doctors at the Charité initially identified in Navalny.

According to German news magazine Der Spiegel, experts at the Charité sought advice from Porton Down, Britain’s secretive laboratory for research on chemical and biological weapons, because of possible similarities with the 2018 Skripal attack.

The German government’s official statement described the attack on Navalny with a chemical nerve agent an “astounding act” and appealed to the Russian government to urgently offer an explanation.

Trump and Biden to give dueling speeches amid intensifying conflicts over coronavirus and protests