Britain and Germany are working together to ensure Russia is “held accountable” over the nerve agent poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said he had discussed the “utterly deplorable” incident with his German counterpart, Heiko Maas, and called the alleged attack a “violation of international law”.
Germany has said it is “without doubt” that Mr Navalny was poisoned with novichok – the same substance used against Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury in March 2018.
However Russia said on Friday that according to its doctors, Mr Navalny was not poisoned, and it wanted dialogue with Berlin.
Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev said he saw no grounds yet to suspect a crime was committed, the Interfax news agency reported.
NATO’s secretary-general condemned what he called the “appalling assassination attempt” on Mr Navalny and called on Moscow to answer international investigators.
“There is proof beyond doubt that Mr Navalny was poisoned using a military-grade nerve agent from the Novichok group,” Jens Stoltenberg said.
The UK Foreign Office said Mr Raab and Mr Maas had agreed to “work together closely to ensure Russia was held accountable for its international obligations”.
They will also be involving the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the Foreign Office added.
“The foreign secretary and Mr Maas agreed that any use of novichok was a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, and therefore a matter of international concern,” a Foreign Office spokesperson said.
Writing on Twitter, Mr Raab said that “international partners must work together to support an investigation into this attack”, adding that the Russian government “must explain what happened”.
Mr Navalny, who has described Vladimir Putin’s United Russia as the “party of crooks and thieves”, is being treated in a Berlin hospital after being transferred from Siberia.
Supporters believe he was poisoned while waiting for a flight at an airport last month.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday that Russia’s own specialists were investigating.
“According to the version of our doctors it wasn’t a poisoning,” he said.
“The German specialists managed to establish some kind of poisonous substance. We’re counting on a dialogue with our German colleagues.”
He added: “If there is confirmation of the presence of poisonous substances in the biological material of the patient then of course legal consequences will follow. We ask everyone to rely on the facts.”
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