Navalny Poisoned With Novichok, Nerve Agent Russia Used on Skripal, Test Shows

The German government has said that prominent Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who is being treated in a hospital in Berlin, was poisoned by the chemical nerve agent Novichok.

Navalny, who was transferred to the Charite hospital in the German capital on August 22 after initially being treated in the Siberian city of Omsk, is in a serious but stable condition.

In a statement on Wednesday afternoon, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said that there was "unequivocal proof" that Navalny was a victim of Novichok. The same substance was also used in the poison attack in Salisbury, England, on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in 2018.

Navalny hospital
A portable isolation unit used to transport Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny at Charite hospital on August 22, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. Navalny is being treated at the hospital for suspected poisoning. Maja Hitij/Getty Images

Chancellor Angela Merkel is discussing "further steps" about the case with top members of her government, as Germany ponders its next move following what Seibert described as a "shocking event."

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Berlin has been summoned by the German government, which will inform the EU and NATO of its findings.

"The federal government condemns this attack in the strongest possible terms," Seibert's statement said, adding, "the Russian government is being urged to explain itself."

Novichok means "newcomer" in Russian and is among nerve agents that were developed by the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s. Like other nerve agents, they block signals from the nerves to the muscles, causing a collapse of bodily functions.

Some Novichok agents are liquids, others can also take the form of an ultra-fine powder.
Designed to be more toxic than other chemical weapons, some versions can take effect within two minutes, according to the BBC.

Ivan Zhdanov, director of Navalny's anti-corruption foundation, tweeted: "Novichok can only be used by the state (GRU, FSB). This is beyond any reasonable doubt."

However the Russian chemist who helped develop the poison, Leonard Rink, told Kommersant that if Novichok had been used on Navalny, it would have killed him.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that as of late Wednesday, the Russian government had not been informed by the German assessment of Navalny's condition, saying, according to state news agency TASS, "this information has not been brought to us."

Doctors in Russia were initially reluctant to let Navalny go abroad for treatment, amid claims by the opposition leader's family and supporters of an attempted cover up. Despite Navalny's diagnosis, Russian criminologists still insist that they did not find any traces of poisonous or toxic substances in his body, according to TASS.