Pompeo Says Navalny Poisoning Likely Ordered By ‘Senior Russian Officials’
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says there is a strong chance the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny was ordered by senior officials in Moscow.
Pompeo, speaking in a radio interview on September 9, said people around the world “see this kind of activity for what it is. And when they see the effort to poison a dissident, and they recognize that there is a substantial chance that this actually came from senior Russian officials, I think this is not good for the Russian people.”
Navalny’s team, his relatives, and others believe that Russian authorities are behind the poisoning. The Kremlin has vehemently denied the allegations.
Navalny suddenly fell ill on a Russian domestic flight on August 20 and was medically evacuated to Germany on a request by his wife several days later.
German experts say the 44-year-old anti-corruption campaigner and Russian opposition leader was poisoned with a Soviet-style military nerve agent from the Novichok group, prompting international calls on Russia to swiftly investigate the case.
Russian authorities have refused to open a criminal investigation, saying that no hard evidence of poisoning has been found.
Russia said earlier on September 9 it had protested strongly to Berlin’s envoy to Moscow over “unfounded accusations and ultimatums” purportedly made by Germany over Navalny’s illness.
During a meeting at the Russian Foreign Ministry, the German ambassador was warned that a refusal by Berlin to provide Moscow information in the case would be seen as a “hostile provocation” that would be “fraught with consequences,” a ministry statement said.
The ministry also protested what it called Berlin’s “obvious use of the situation as a means to discredit our country on the international stage.”
The German government said the test results showing that Navalny was the victim of a nerve-agent attack have been handed over to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
The government saw no reason to hand the evidence directly to Russia, deputy spokeswoman Martina Fietz told reporters, adding, “We continue to appeal to the Russian side to deliver information.”
Before the German ambassador was summoned by Russian officials, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov criticized Germany’s “completely inappropriate attitude toward official requests we send to Berlin.”
He called Germany’s tone “absolutely unacceptable.”
Earlier in the day, the Russian Foreign Ministry accused the Group of Seven (G7) countries of an “unfolding massive disinformation campaign” to whip up support for sanctions over the Navalny case.
“The whipping up of hysteria around this case is only growing” and “the main task is not in caring for A. Navalny’s health or discovering the true reasons for his hospitalization but in mobilizing sanctions sentiments,” the ministry said in a statement.
The statement came after G7 foreign ministers late on September 8 condemned Navalny’s “confirmed poisoning” and demanded that Russia quickly find and prosecute those behind the “abhorrent” attack.
The Berlin hospital where Navalny is being treated said on September 7 he had awaken from a medically induced coma and was responding to verbal stimuli. However, it said it was unclear what long-term effects he will suffer.
Navalny has led nationwide protests against Russian President Vladimir Putin and has been attacked with a dangerous chemical and fallen ill in Russian custody in the past.
Other Kremlin opponents have been killed or targeted in recent years, including investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, former Russian security officer Aleksandr Litvinenko, former Russian Deputy Prime Minister and opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, and former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal.
Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were poisoned with Novichok in the British city of Salisbury in 2018, and British investigators have implicated Russian security agencies.