Germany threatens Russia with sanctions

Heiko Maas   | Photo Credit: REUTERS

Tensions deepened between Germany and Russia over the alleged poisoning of opposition figure Alexei Navalny on Sunday, with Germany threatening sanctions and Russia accusing Berlin of delaying the investigation it demanded.

The Russian opposition leader and anti-corruption campaigner fell ill on a flight last month and was treated in a Siberian hospital before being evacuated to Berlin.

Germany said last week there was “unequivocal evidence” that President Vladimir Putin’s top foe had been poisoned using the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok.

Germany will discuss possible sanctions against Russia if the Kremlin does not provide an explanation soon, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Sunday.

“We have high expectations of the Russian government to solve this serious crime,” Mr. Maas told German daily Bild. “If the government has nothing to do with the attack, then it is in its own interest to back this up with facts.”

‘Russis needs to clarify’

If Russia does not help clarify what happened “in the coming days”, Germany will be compelled to “discuss a response with our allies,” Mr. Maas said.

Any sanctions decided should be “targeted”, he added.

Britain said on Sunday that Russia had “a very serious set of questions to answer” and it was “clear” the Kremlin critic was poisoned with Novichok.

The Kremlin has denied responsibility for the attack and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that Germany is yet to share any findings with Moscow’s prosecutors.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Sunday accused Germany of stalling efforts to probe the case.

German authorities had failed to respond to a request by Russian prosecutors sent on August 27, she said in a Facebook post.

“Dear Mr. Maas, if the German government is sincere in its statements then it should be interested in preparing a response to a request of the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office as soon as possible,” Ms. Zakharova said.

‘Double game’

“So far we are not certain that Germany is not playing a double game,” she added. “Where is the ‘urgency’ you are insisting upon?

“By not sending its answer, Berlin is stalling the process of investigation for which it’s calling. On purpose?”

Mr. Maas said on Sunday there were “several indications” that Russia was behind the poisoning, in the strongest accusations yet from Germany. “The deadly substance with which Navalny was poisoned has in the past been found in the hands of Russian authorities.”

On the subject of which sanctions could be discussed by the EU, Maas did not rule out action relating to Nord Stream 2, a multi-billion-euro Russian-German gas pipeline nearing completion that has drawn the ire of US and European partners alike.

“I hope... that the Russians do not force us to change our position on Nord Stream,” Mr. Maas said.

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Printable version | Oct 29, 2020 5:44:04 AM |

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