Nato ambassadors have called on Russia to cooperate fully with an international investigation into the alleged use of chemical agents to poison Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny.
The call was made today after a meeting of the North Atlantic Council – a body made up of ambassadors of the Nato member states to the organisation, and comes at the demand of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Navalny is currently in hospital in Berlin, where he was airlifted after collapsing on a flight from Tomsk to Moscow last week. According to Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg, the German doctors have “proof beyond doubt” that the chemical agent Novichok was used in what he described as “an appalling assassination attempt”.
“Any use of such horrific weapons shows a total disrespect for human lives, and is an unacceptable breach of international norms and rules,” Stoltenberg said after the meeting.
“NATO allies agree that Russia now has serious questions it must answer, and the Russian government must fully cooperate with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons on an impartial international investigation,” he said.
“Those responsible for this attack must be held accountable, and brought to justice,” he went on.
The Kremlin has denied any involvement in what happened to Navalny, but the diagnosis of Novichok poisoning is, according to a Navalny ally speaking to Channel Four News, “like Putin’s signature poison, like leaving the business card of Mr Putin at the crime scene.”
Russia disputes the German diagnosis, and the government of Vladimir Putin has been linked in the past to poisonings of opponents in general, and to the use of Novichok in particular.
“This is not just an attack on an individual, but an attack on fundamental democratic rights,” Stoltenberg said. “And it is a serious breach of international law, which demands an international response.”
When asked where Nato got the authority to order Russia to cooperate with an enquiry – whereas the attack took place on a Russian national in Russia and outside the jurisdiction of Nato – Stoltenberg said, “This is a violation of international law and international norms. It’s the use of a chemical nerve agent in violating of the prohibition on any use of chemical weapons, and that matters to Nato.”