French President Emmanuel Macron has demanded a “swift and flawless” explanation from Moscow in the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, who is recovering in a Berlin hospital from what German doctors say was poisoning from a Soviet-style nerve agent.
“We will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons in Europe, in Russia, or in Syria,” Macron told the first day of the 75th UN General Assembly on September 22, speaking in a video message shortly after a speech by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The 44-year-old Navalny became seriously ill aboard a Moscow-bound flight on August 20 originating in the Siberian city of Tomsk, where he was carrying out his latest investigation into state corruption.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and others have already demanded that Russia provide answers in the case.
“This clarification must be swift and flawless because we will enforce our red lines,” Macron said.
Macron did not elaborate on what would be done if Russia did not provide satisfactory explanations.
Navalny was medically airlifted to Germany several days after falling ill over Siberia — following a medical tussle with Russian doctors who said he was too sick to travel — at the request of his wife.
He emerged earlier this month from a medically induced coma and his condition is said to be improving, although the likely long-term effects of the toxin on Navalny are still unclear.
German doctors say the military-grade nerve agent Novichok was found both inside his body and on his skin.
Navalny said in a post on his website on September 21 that the 30-day deadline for Russian police to conduct their “pre-investigative check” into what he called an attempted murder by poisoning has expired and he demanded that the Russian side return articles of clothing taken when he was hospitalized there.
Experts say the clothes he had on could help any investigation into the poisoning.
Russian officials have denied any role in the incident and have questioned German officials’ findings and their statements since Navalny arrived there for treatment.
Russian police must either launch an investigation or close a case within 30 days of a pre-investigative check.
However, police in Omsk said they are continuing their investigation.
Navalny’s team has said a water bottle removed from his hotel room in the city of Tomsk after he fell ill had been taken to Germany and found to have traces of a Novichok-like nerve agent.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said suggestions Navalny ingested the nerve agent via a water bottle in Siberia are “absurd.”
In a statement issued via his Instagram account on September 19, Navalny called his road to recovery “a clear path now, albeit long.”
Navalny was attacked with a green dye by unknown assailants in Russia in 2017, leaving him with permanent damage to his vision.
Two years later, he suddenly fell ill while in Russian detention with what Russian doctors said was a severe allergic reaction but he and his team insisted was an intentional poisoning that still has not been solved.
With reporting by Reuters