The Kremlin on Tuesday rejected allegations that opposition leader Alexei Navalny was poisoned, despite an initial diagnosis from a German hospital indicating he was.
“There must be a reason for an investigation. For the moment, all you and I see is that the patient is in a coma,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, according to Reuters.
But German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for an investigation Monday after doctors from Berlin’s Charite Hospital found that clinical tests “indicate poisoning with a substance from the group of cholinesterase inhibitors,” the hospital said in a statement Monday, adding that the “specific substance” remained “unknown.”
RUSSIAN OPPOSITION CRITIC ALEXEI NAVALNY WAS POISONED, GERMAN DOCTORS SAY
The Kremlin spokesman called accusations that the Russian government was behind the poisioning “empty noise.”
“We do not intend to take it seriously,” Peskov said Tuesday, claiming that Navalny’s condition could have been caused from a variety of things.
“If a substance is found, and if it is determined that it is poisoning, then there will be a reason for an investigation,” Peskov added.
Navalny is a politician and an outspoken lawyer who earned a reputation as an enemy of the Kremlin by fighting against official corruption. He’s also one of Putin’s strongest critics.
The 44-year old fell ill Thursday on a flight back from Mocsow, making an emergency landing in the Siberian city of Omsk, where he was hospitalized before being flown to Germany for treatment. He has been put in a medically induced coma.
Navalny allies believe his tea was poisoned before his flight.
The hospital has said “his condition is serious, [but] it is not currently life-threatening,” and warned long term nerve damage could not be ruled out.
The cholinesterase inhibitors found in Navalny’s system reportedly block the breakdown of acetycholine, a vital chemical that transmits signals between nerve cells.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the U.S. is “deeply concerned” by the reports of potential poisoning of Navalny. Adding that, “If the reports prove accurate, the United States supports the EU’s call for a comprehensive investigation and stands ready to assist in that effort.”
France and Norway has made similar statements.
RUSSIAN DISSIDENT ALEXEI NAVALNY ARRIVES IN GERMANY AFTER SUSPECTED POISONING
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Tuesday, along with other dipolmats and voiced his concern over the recent reports of potential poisoning.
In a statement following the meeting, Lavrov accused Biegun of threatening greater repercussions than after the U.S. learned of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, if the poisoning is confirmed.
The U.S. Ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan’s spokeperson said the latest information “necessitates an immediate, comprehensive, and transparent investigation by the Russian authorities that holds the parties behind this act responsible.”
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Russia is now accusing the U.S. and the EU of taking “suspicious haste,” and questions “who profits from it.”
“The Russian leadership definitely doesn’t,” the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.
If Navalny’s poisoning is officially confirmed, he would be the latest in a long line of Putin critics and opposition activists to have been poisoned or attacked in some other way.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.