Russia Furious as U.S. Demands Answers Over Alexei Navalny Poisoning

Russia has hit back at an international demand that it give answers about the poisoning of jailed opposition politician Alexei Navalny by accusing the U.S. of not sticking to its international chemical weapons obligations.

The U.S. is among a group of 45 countries which, under the rules of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), has given Russia 10 days to respond to questions over the Novichok poisoning of Navalny in August 2020.

The U.S. State Department concluded that agents from Russia's FSB intelligence agency had poisoned Navalny using Novichok. The Hague-based OPCW said samples from Navalny, supplied by Germany, tested positive for Novichok.

Moscow denies responsibility for the incident, which led to a chorus of international condemnation and the Kremlin critic being airlifted to Germany for treatment. He was later jailed upon his return to the country, which spurred domestic protests and was followed by U.S. sanctions.

Tuesday's statement by the countries, which included the EU, Australia and Canada, said it was "essential that Russia sets out in detail" what it had done to "investigate and shed light on the use of a chemical weapon on its territory."

However, Russia's embassy in Washington, D.C. singled out the U.S. in rejecting the international allegations about the Navalny case.

In a Facebook post, it accused the U.S. State Department of "yet another unfounded accusation" about the "alleged use of chemical weapons by the Russian intelligence agencies."

The embassy described accusations Russia faced over Navalny as being part of "an aggressive propaganda campaign waged by Western and affiliated Russian media with the general thesis based on an unfounded allegation of 'poisoning' of the blogger."

If the demands to Russia over Novichok remain unresolved, the OPCW could eventually suspend Russia's voting rights, which happened to Moscow's ally, Syria, in April, Agence France-Presse reported.

But the Russian embassy said that Russia had "eliminated all national stockpiles of chemical warfare agents" in 2017 which had been "documented by the OPCW."

"The United States, in turn, remains the only country which has not eliminated its significant arsenal of chemical weapons," said the statement, also reported by the Russian state news agency Tass.

It added Russia "call on Washington to finalize the chemical demilitarization program and fulfill international obligations in the nearest terms, securing the world from the potential use of this type of arms."

When contacted for comment, a spokesperson for the State Department referred Newsweek to its statement about backing the international demand to Russia to answer questions about the Novichok poisoning under OPCW rules.

The statement on Tuesday said that "there can be no impunity" for the poisoning. It added that Russia must "answer the questions in accordance with its obligations and to make clear to the international community what it has done and is doing to ensure that there is no further use of chemical weapons from Russian territory."

Navalny has been out of the public eye since his jailing and the clamp down on his Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK). However, Navalny is considered a favorite for the Nobel Peace Prize to be announced on Friday. Winning the prize could breathe new life into his opposition movement and prove awkward for the Kremlin.

Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny
Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny is pictured at a police station on January 18, 2021, outside Moscow. His Novichok poisoning has spurred a call for Russia to answer questions about chemical weapons. ALEXANDER NEMENOV/Getty