Germany calls for Russian sanctions after alleged poisoning of opposition leader

Germany calls for Russian sanctions after alleged poisoning of opposition leader
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Germany is calling for the European Union (EU) to slap sanctions on Russia after Alexei Navalny, a top opposition leader, was poisoned with an internationally-banned chemical agent.

“I am convinced that there will be no longer any way around sanctions,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told t-online in an interview Saturday.

“Sanctions must always be targeted and proportionate. But such a grave violation of the International Chemical Weapons Convention cannot be left unanswered. On this, we’re united in Europe,” Maas added. 

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Germany currently serves as the president of the EU, a rotating position for the 27-member bloc. Leaders are expected to announce their response to the poisoning, which is believed to have been ordered by Moscow, at their next summit starting on Oct. 15.

“If the result of the German, Swedish and French laboratories is confirmed, there will be a clear response from the EU. I’m sure about that,” Maas said. 

Navalny, considered the unofficial leader of the Russian opposition and a top critic of President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinHillicon Valley — Facebook 'too late' curbing climate falsities France pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal Apple, Google remove Navalny app as Russian elections begin MORE, first became ill in August after he is believed to have drunk tea laced with poison, a tool used in the past by Putin’s government against vocal critics. After initially barring him from leaving the country, the Kremlin succumbed to international pressure and allowed him to travel to Berlin, where he is receiving treatment.

He has since been released from the hospital.

Navalny was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok, which had been used previously in an attempted assassination of an ex-Russian spy in the United Kingdom. That attack is also believed to have been ordered by Moscow.

The poisoning of Navalny drew condemnation across the West, including from several lawmakers in Washington.

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Germany has faced pressure to scrap an agreement on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which brings gas from Russia to Germany.

Maas downplayed possible action against the nearly-completed deal, noting that half of the 100 European companies involved are German. 

“So many European workers would suffer from a construction freeze,” Maas said.