One hospitalised after Navalny allies targeted with chemical agent

File photo taken Feb. 29, 2020 of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny at a Moscow protest.
File photo taken Feb. 29, 2020 of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny at a Moscow protest. REUTERS - Shamil Zhumatov

An intruder smashed a bottle containing a chemical fluid in the campaign office of allies of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny in the Russian city of Novosibirsk on Tuesday, forcing them to evacuate the premises, opposition activists said.

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Three people were treated by medics and at least one was taken to hospital, said Sergei Boyko, an opposition politician and ally of Navalny, who is being treated in hospital in Germany after what Berlin said was an attempt to kill him by poisoning.

Boyko, who is running for the city council of Novosibirsk in Siberia in an election on Sunday, said it was unclear what substance had been thrown in the campaign office but that police had said it was not toxic.

Boyko's election campaign group described it as a chemical that was caustic and foul-smelling.

A "disgusting, stinging odour" filled the room, said Ivan Jdanov, who was in a meeting with around 50 people in the room.

CCTV footage shared by Navalny's allies showed two hooded men sprinting away after the incident.

The activists had gathered to listen to a talk on how to monitor elections, Boyko said.

Boyko is one of a number of Navalny supporters running in local elections across Russia at the weekend.

Navalny was admitted to hospital last month after collapsing on a plane to Moscow from Siberia, where he had met with allies running in the elections.

He was airlifted to Germany for treatment at a Berlin hospital where doctors said he was poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent. On Monday, the opposition leader was taken out of a medically induced coma.

Russia has said it has seen no evidence that he was poisoned.

UN rights chief urges Russian cooperation

Meanwhile the top UN human rights official on Tuesday called on Russia to conduct, or cooperate with, a full independent investigation into Germany's findings into the incident.

"It is not good enough to simply deny he was poisoned, and deny the need for a thorough, independent, impartial and transparent investigation into this assassination attempt," Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement.

"It is incumbent on the Russian authorities to fully investigate who was responsible for this crime – a very serious crime that was committed on Russian soil."

Germany is consulting European and NATO partners on how to respond if Russia fails to help clear up what happened to Navalny.

Merkel cautious on Russia-Germany pipeline

One big area of discussion is the future of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, which is nearly complete and due to start operation next year.

At a meeting of her conservative parliamentary group on Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated her call for an EU response to the attack on Navalny but took a cautious line on the pipeline, said participants.

She told lawmakers she could hear that some people were talking about Nord Stream 2 in the context of an EU response but also said that opinion was divided. At the EU level many would not explicitly make a connection between the Navalny case and stopping the pipeline, she said, according to participants.

On Monday, her spokesman had said she did not rule out imposing sanctions.

Conservative parliamentary group leader Ralph Brinkhaus also struck a cautious note on stopping the pipeline, said sources.

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier kept open the possibility of future sanctions but said late on Monday that keeping lines of communication open was often more effective as sanctions could result in a hardening of politics.

"I don't know of any case where a country like Russia, or a similar country, has been moved by sanctions to change its behaviour," he said.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

 

 

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