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6 Oct, 2020 18:29

OPCW says it found traces of Novichok-class substance in blood & urine samples of Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny

OPCW says it found traces of Novichok-class substance in blood & urine samples of Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said Tuesday that it’s found evidence of a poisonous substance from the Novichok group in blood and urine samples of Russian anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny.

As a result, the German government – which requested the study – says it intends to work out a response in collaboration with other European Union members. It looks likely that the situation will lead to a new front opening in the sanctions war. On Saturday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said he expected the EU to impose penalties against Russia if the presence of Novichok in Navalny's system is confirmed.

“The results of the analysis... confirm that the biomarkers of the cholinesterase inhibitor found in Navalny’s blood and urine samples have similar structural characteristics as the toxic chemicals belonging to [the Novichok family],” the OPCW said in a statement published on its website. According to the organization, these substances were produced and stockpiled exclusively as chemical weapons and they have little or no other use other than as chemical warfare agents.

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OPCW Director General Fernando Arias Gonzalez expressed his gratitude to the laboratories involved in the study and said that their findings were of significant concern. “State Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention have declared the use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances as reprehensible and wholly contrary to the legal norms established by the international community,” he explained. “It is therefore important now for State Parties to uphold the norm they have decided to adhere to more than 25 years ago.”

The Kremlin has no information about the OPCW report, spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. He explained that "there needs to be some time to hand it over through diplomatic channels and for us to receive this information." "It seems like there will be all information required there," Peskov explained.

Earlier on Tuesday, the OPCW revealed it was ready to send experts to Russia to establish the facts in the Navalny case, at Moscow's invitation, which was issued last week.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov sharply criticized the OPCW the day before the report was published, insinuating that it had allowed itself to become a tool of Western governments. He noted in particular the unsatisfactory work of the organization during its investigation of the 2017 chemical attack in the Syrian city of Khan Sheikhun. According to Lavrov, the OPCW should have sent its own experts to Syria to collect samples, but instead relied on ones provided by Britain and France.

Navalny was in a coma from August 20 to September 7. After taking ill on a flight from Siberia to Moscow, he was initially hospitalized in Omsk, before being transferred to the Charité clinic, in Berlin. Germany claimed last month that the Moscow protest leader was targeted with poison from the Novichok group. Russian experts denied this, saying they’d found no such evidence.

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