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UK demands probe into ‘pure gangsterism’ poisoning of Putin critic Navalny

In this image from February of this year, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, his wife Yulia, opposition politician Lyubov Sobol and other demonstrators march in memory of murdered Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov in downtown Moscow on February 29, 2020. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)
September 08, 2020

U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Russia has a “case to answer” over the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny given its “track record,” and called for the Kremlin’s cooperation with an international investigation.

Speaking to the BBC on Sunday, Raab said that while it’s too early to attribute blame, “it’s very difficult to come up with a plausible alternative explanation” other than Russia’s involvement.

BERLIN, GERMANY – AUGUST 22: German army emergency personnel load portable isolation unit (Epi Shuttle) into their ambulance that was used to transport Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny at Charite hospital on August 22, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. Navalny has arrived in Germany at Charite Hospital in Berlin for treatment for possible poisoning. (Maja Hitij/Getty Images/TNS)

“The use of chemical weapons in this kind of context is pure gangsterism and Russia does have responsibility never to use it as a government, and second of all to make sure no-one else can use it within its territory,” Raab said, calling for a probe via the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. “Russia needs to cooperate fully.”

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Raab pledged to work with allies including Germany on a response to the poisoning, which has special resonance in the U.K. because military-grade novichok — which Germany has said “unequivocally” was used on Navalny — is the same nerve agent that was deployed in the attempted murder in 2018 of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter on British soil.

That was the first use of chemical weapons in Europe since World War II and triggered a diplomatic showdown when the U.K. pointed the finger directly at Russian President Vladimir Putin for ordering the attack, which inadvertently killed a British woman.

Russia “can’t just say ‘this is a domestic issue, it is just our internal affairs,’” Raab said.

The comments come after Raab’s German counterpart, Heiko Maas, told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that sanctions could be imposed on Russia unless it clarifies the circumstances of Navalny’s poisoning in the “next few days.”

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© 2020 Bloomberg News

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.