Germany presses Russia to cooperate in investigation of Putin critic's poisoning

Germany presses Russia to cooperate in investigation of Putin critic's poisoning

German officials on Sunday said the fate of a German-Russian gas pipeline project could be at stake if Moscow does not take seriously the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

“I hope the Russians won’t force us to change our position regarding the Nord Stream 2 [pipeline],” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said.

“[I]f there won’t be an contributions from the Russian side regarding the investigation in the coming days, we will have to consult with our partners,” he added, according to The Associated Press.

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Maas would not rule out sanctions, but said that fully ending construction of the pipeline, which is nearly complete, would also harm European businesses.

“Whoever demands this has to be aware of the consequences,” he said. “More than 100 companies from 12 European countries are involved, about half of them from Germany.”

Navalny was hospitalized in late August and has been in a medically-induced coma in Berlin since Aug. 22. Chancellor Angela Merkel has denounced the poisoning as an attempted murder and called for a comprehensive probe.

German officials said tests indicate Navalny was poisoned with the same chemical nerve agent, from the Novichok group, that was used to target former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter two years ago.

“We have high expectations from the Russians to bring light into this severe crime,” Maas said, according to the AP. “If they have nothing to do with this attack, then it’s in their own interest to put the facts on the table.”

French officials also suggested sanctions are possible if Russia does not respond.

“It’s a serious situation. It’s serious firstly because it’s the poisoning of another opposition figure. And it’s serious because the substance that was used, Novichok, is banned,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on France Inter radio.