Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday suggested that prominent Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who fell into a coma after a suspected assassination attempt, had been poisoned in Germany or while on the plane to Berlin for treatment.
Lavrov made the claim during an online news conference, saying, “We have all grounds to believe that everything which had happened to him [Navalny] from the point of view of warfare agents entering into his body, could have happened in Germany or on the plane where he was loaded and sent to the Charite clinic.”
As Reuters reports, Lavrov did not specify what evidence he had that would substantiate these claims.
Navalny was placed in intensive care at a Siberian hospital in August after falling ill during a flight back from Moscow.
The unofficial Russian opposition leader began receiving treatment in Germany at the Charité-Universitätsmedizin hospital in Berlin. Russian officials initially attempted to block Navalny from leaving the country but bowed to international pressure, allowing him and his wife to travel to Germany.
The poison found in his body was identified as the nerve agent Novichok, the same substance found in the 2018 poisoning of Russian double-agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter. It is believed that Navalny ingested the poison after it mixed into his tea.
In October the European Union (EU) announced sanctions against six top Russian officials for what they believed was Russia’s involvement in the poisoning of Navalny. The United Kingdom also placed sanctions on Russia in light of this incident.
A bipartisan group of U.S. senators called for the Trump administration to place new sanctions on Russia soon after the EU and U.K. announced their sanctions.
Russia has so far denied any involvement in Navalny’s poisoning, and Lavrov announced retaliatory measures against French and German officials in response to the sanctions on Thursday.
Navalny was released from the German hospital in September, though the long-term effects of this incident are still not known.
“Based on the patient’s progress and current condition, the treating physicians believe that complete recovery is possible. However, it remains too early to gauge the potential long-term effects of his severe poisoning,” said the hospital.