Russia slams US claims over Navalny as 'unacceptable'

MOSCOW • Russia yesterday condemned as unacceptable a US statement that senior Russian officials may have been behind the poisoning of top Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

The 44-year-old lawyer and anti-corruption campaigner fell ill last month after boarding a plane and was treated in Siberia before medical evacuation to Germany, where doctors said he was poisoned.

"We consider unacceptable any direct or indirect suggestions that Russian officials were involved in this," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, responding to claims made by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that it was likely senior Russian officials ordered the poisoning of the prominent opposition leader with Novichok nerve agent.

"I think people all around the world see this kind of activity for what it is," Mr Pompeo said in a radio interview on Wednesday.

"And when they see the effort to poison a dissident, and they recognise that there is a substantial chance that this actually came from senior Russian officials, I think this is not good for the Russian people."

The comments from Mr Pompeo, who said the United States and its European allies wanted Russia to "hold those responsible for this accountable", came despite US President Donald Trump saying last week that he had seen no proof that Mr Navalny was poisoned.

Mr Peskov yesterday stressed that Russia had "an interest in finding the reasons for what happened" to Mr Navalny.

He repeated complaints that Russia had not received information from Germany on the findings of medical tests that led it to conclude that he was poisoned. He added that Russian officials were seeking cooperation with Germany but did not see their efforts being reciprocated.

Russia has not opened a criminal investigation into what happened to the high-profile politician because it said its own medical tests had found no poison.

A day earlier, Russia had issued a strong protest to Germany, denouncing what it said were baseless claims and warning of a major risk to diplomatic ties.

The Foreign Ministry in Moscow said it had summoned German ambassador Geza Andreas von Geyr and protested against "unfounded accusations and ultimatums against Russia" and the "obvious use of (Mr Navalny's) situation by Berlin as a pretext to discredit our country".

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov yesterday stressed that Russia had "an interest in finding the reasons for what happened" to Mr Alexei Navalny. He repeated complaints that Russia had not received information from Germany on the findings of medical tests that led it to conclude that he was poisoned. He added that Russian officials were seeking cooperation with Germany but did not see their efforts being reciprocated.

It said failure to provide evidence of its allegations against Russia would be seen as a "gross hostile provocation" that would be "fraught with consequences for Russian-German relations".

Mr Navalny became ill while leading a tactical voting campaign aimed at pushing out the ruling party's candidates in local elections.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 11, 2020, with the headline 'Russia slams US claims over Navalny as 'unacceptable''. Subscribe