Pompeo: US ‘deeply concerned’ by reports Russian opposition leader was poisoned

Greg Nash

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday said the U.S. is “deeply concerned” over preliminary conclusions that Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was poisoned while on his way to Moscow last week.

The European Union and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have called for Russia to investigate the circumstances of the apparent attack after a comatose Navalny was transferred from the Russian city of Omsk to Berlin on Saturday.

“The United States is deeply concerned by reported preliminary conclusions from German medical experts that Russian opposition activist Aleksey Navalny was poisoned. If the reports prove accurate, the United States supports the EU’s call for a comprehensive investigation and stands ready to assist in that effort,” Pompeo said in a statement.

“Mr. Navalny’s family and the Russian people deserve to see a full and transparent investigation carried out, and for those involved to be held accountable. Our thoughts are with Mr. Navalny’s family and we hope for his full recovery,” he wrote.

German doctors on Monday said that examinations of Navalny indicate poisoning with some kind of cholinesterase inhibitor, Reuters reported, but the specific substance is not yet known.

Pompeo’s statement marks his first public recognition of the situation since Navalny first fell ill Thursday on a flight from Siberia to Moscow.

Navalny is a noted critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and anti-corruption activist.

His spokesperson, Kira Yarmysh, wrote on Twitter at the time that Navalny likely ingested poison that was slipped into his tea at the airport.  

Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun also raised the issue of Navalny’s possible poisoning with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov while meeting in Moscow.

Rebecca Ross, the spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, said in a statement on Twitter on Tuesday that Biegun expressed “deep concern” about Navalny’s condition and “the impact on Russian civil society of reports of his poisoning, and the importance of transparency and freedom of speech in any democratic society.” 

The Kremlin has said the German diagnosis is not conclusive and that there’s no reason yet to launch an investigation, Reuters reported. Moscow categorized as “hot air” allegations that Putin was behind the suspected attack.

Two years ago, the Kremlin drew international outrage when it was accused of poisoning Russian-double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English town of Salisbury.

U.K. officials connected that poisoning to the Russian chemical weapon Novichok and put the blame on Putin for ordering the attack. The U.S. followed the lead of the U.K. in imposing sanctions on Moscow in that instance, including closing a Russian consulate and deporting dozens of Russian diplomats and intelligence officials from the U.S.

The Skripal case, however, was unique in that it was a foreign attack on sovereign U.K. soil, with Navalny’s suspected poisoning taking place inside Russia and raising questions for how forcefully the U.S. can respond.

Tags alexei navalny Alexei Navalny Mike Pompeo Opposition to Vladimir Putin in Russia Reuters Russia Russian opposition Russian protests Sergei Skripal Vladimir Putin
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