A great ally of the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has warned that the European Union will lose any credibility if it does not act to poison Russian dissident Alexei Navalny with a toxic substance.
Nobert Röttgen, who is chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the German parliament, said Germany should now reconsider a major gas deal with Russia.
The Russian government was widely condemned after Germany announced that Navalny was poisoned with the toxin Novichok.
The Russian dissident is currently lying in a coma in a hospital in the German capital, Berlin.
Rutgen called on the European Union to respond firmly to the Navalny case. Novichuk is described as a highly dangerous toxic substance, produced in state laboratories.
“Here we are once again facing the brutal actions of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s regime, which treats people with contempt,” Rutgen told German television (ARD).
He pointed out that Putin’s grip extended to Syria, Libya, and then Belarus, saying: “The question is will the silence of the Europeans continue? And if that is, then we will lose all our credibility, no one will take us seriously.”
Merkel said earlier that Navalny was subjected to an attempted murder, and that the whole world was waiting for answers from Russia, adding that the response would be “appropriate and common” from the European Union and NATO. “The poisoning of Navalny is a violation of the fundamental values and rights that we are bound by,” she said.
The Kremlin objected to the German diagnosis and said it had not seen German data on Navalny’s case.
Doubts about the Russian gas deal
Rutgen warned that Germany would become mortgaged to Russia if it went ahead with the North Stream 2 project, a controversial 1,225 km long gas line owned by Russia’s Gazprom.
He also said that going with the project would encourage Putin to ignore Western protests over the Navalny case and other attacks on his opponents.
Rutgen is a strong candidate to succeed Merkel as German chancellor next year.
Last Tuesday, Merkel expressed her hope to complete the North Stream 2 deal.
And US President Donald Trump has imposed sanctions on any company that helps Gazprom complete the project.
But his opponents question why he is silent over the Navalny poisoning case.
His rival in the election, Joe Biden, accused the Kremlin of carrying out a “rude and outrageous” attempt to kill Navalny. He added that Trump refused to confront Putin, describing him as a “wonderful person.”
Navalny was transferred to Germany after he fell unconscious on a flight in Siberia on 20 August.
His staff say he was poisoned on the orders of Putin, but the Kremlin has denied the allegations.
A team of German experts found evidence that “without a doubt” proves that he had been exposed to the toxin Novichok.
Charity Hospital said Navalny’s recovery will take a long time and that long-term side effects are not ruled out either. But he indicated that the gas’s blocking of enzymes in his body was starting to recede.
On Wednesday, a Kremlin spokeswoman called on Germany to share information. Maria Zakarova described the allegations regarding Novichok as lacking any evidence, saying, “Where are the facts? Where are the evidence? We want at least some information.”
A former Russian spy, Sergey Skripal, was poisoned with Novichok with his daughter in Britain in 2018. The two survived after treatment, but a British woman died in hospital after being exposed to this substance. Britain accused the Russian Military Intelligence of the operation.
And 20 countries took a joint decision to expel more than 100 Russian diplomats and spies in response to the attack.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the latest operation as “outrageous” and said: “The Russian government must now explain what happened to Navalny. We will work with our partners to make sure that justice is done.”
The European Union called on the Russian government to conduct a transparent investigation, and to prosecute those involved in the process.
European Council President Charles Michel said: “I condemn in the strongest terms the attempt to silence the opposition leader Navalny by using a military nerve agent.”
In a tweet, NATO Secretary-General Jan Stoltenberg called for an investigation into the case.
The US National Security Council described the poisoning as a “reprehensible act.” “We will work with our partners and the international community to hold those responsible for this act accountable in Russia, wherever evidence leads us, and we will restrict funding for their malicious activities,” he said.