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Introductory statement by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on the OPCW findings in the Navalny case during a question-and-answer session in the German Bundestag

07.10.2020 - Speech

We have all watched the dramatic events concerning Alexei Navalny as they have unfolded over the past few weeks. Let me start by saying something that has perhaps not been said loudly enough in the whole debate.

We are all very glad and relieved that he survived what happened. That is due above all to the outstanding work of the doctors at the Charité hospital in Berlin, and to the doctors who initially treated him in Omsk. These medics therefore deserve our great thanks.

Honourable Members of Parliament, we now know what was responsible for the near death of Alexei Navalny. Three specialised laboratories in Germany, France and Sweden have confirmed, independently of one another and beyond doubt, that he was poisoned with a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok group.

As a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention, we immediately informed the OPCW, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, that an internationally banned nerve agent had been used. We asked the OPCW to conduct its own independent inquiry. A group of OPCW experts thereupon took biomedical samples from Mr Navalny and had these analysed by OPCW designated laboratories. The OPCW has now unequivocally confirmed that substances were found in Mr Navalny’s blood and urine whose structural characteristics identify them as belonging to the Novichok group. The OPCW published a summary of the report on its website yesterday. It is thus available to anyone who wants to read it.

The OPCW member states have already discussed the findings at the OPCW Executive Council session which is currently under way in The Hague. Many questions were raised, above all questions for Russia, which is also an OPCW member, questions that we and our partners have repeatedly asked in the past weeks and which we do not consider to have been answered yet. For example, why has an extremely dangerous and internationally banned chemical warfare agent like Novichok not been declared and destroyed long since? Why has Russia not done its own tests in its own specialised laboratory, although the hospital in Omsk has blood and tissue samples from Mr Navalny? Why hasn’t a criminal investigation yet been instigated in Russia, in order to find out by whom, under what circumstances and why Alexei Navalny was poisoned? Indeed, ladies and gentlemen, the mere development, production and possession of chemical weapons constitutes a flagrant violation of international law.

Russia itself should, in our opinion – and I have said this directly to the Russian Foreign Minister on the phone – have a major interest in the full investigation of this crime. We’re talking about the poisoning of a significant Russian opposition figure on Russian soil!

In our opinion, no information of value has yet come to light in Russia. Instead, absurd allegations have been made against Germany and against the OPCW – and even against Mr Navalny, who was accused of poisoning himself with Novichok.

We do not believe that this will help to solve the case. We are proceeding on the assumption that light must at long last be shed on this case and that the Russian authorities in particular will accordingly have to answer questions that have also been asked in the OPCW Executive Council. If this is not done, there will be no way of avoiding a clear and unequivocal international response.

This act committed with a chemical nerve agent constitutes a serious breach of international law. It is our firm conviction that such an act must have consequences. We will therefore coordinate a joint response with our partners in the European Union and within the OPCW in the coming days.

If the incident is not investigated and the necessary information is not made available, targeted and proportionate sanctions against figures of responsibility on the Russian side will be unavoidable. Russia would do well to make sure things don’t get that far.

Thank you, President.

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