U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Russia has a “case to answer” over the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny given its “track record,” and called for the Kremlin’s cooperation with an international investigation.
Speaking to the BBC on Sunday, Raab said that while it’s too early to attribute blame, “it’s very difficult to come up with a plausible alternative explanation” other than Russia’s involvement.
“The use of chemical weapons in this kind of context is pure gangsterism and Russia does have responsibility never to use it as a government, and second of all to make sure no-one else can use it within its territory,” Raab said, calling for a probe via theOrganisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. “Russia needs to cooperate fully.”
Raab pledged to work with allies including Germany on a response to the poisoning, which has special resonance in the U.K. because military-grade novichok — which Germany has said “unequivocally” was used on Navalny — is the same nerve agent that was deployed in the attempted murder in 2018 of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter on British soil.
That was the first use of chemical weapons in Europe since World War II and triggered a diplomatic showdown when the U.K. pointed the finger directly at Russian President Vladimir Putin for ordering the attack, which inadvertently killed a British woman.
Raab’s comments come after his German counterpart, Heiko Maas, warned Russia that Germany’s support for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline was at risk if the Kremlin doesn’t assist in clarifying Navalny’s poisoning. Sanctions could be imposed on Russia unless it provides clarification in the “next few days,” he told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
But the British foreign secretary said for now, the U.K.’s focus is on an investigation because the use of chemical weapons is a violation of international law. Russia “can’t just say ‘this is a domestic issue, it is just our internal affairs,’” Raab said.
Speaking earlier to the BBC, Navalny’s chief of staff urged Western countries to respond by targeting Russian financial assets.
“The only way to make it painful for them is of course to start taking measures against their assets,” Leonid Volkov said. “They have enormous assets in the west.”
— With assistance by Carolynn Look
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