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Novichok-type nerve agent found in Navalny samples: watchdog

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(COMBO) This combination of pictures created on October 1, 2020 shows Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny (L, on January 16, 2018 in Moscow) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (on July 4, 2019 in Rome). – Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has accused President Vladimir Putin of being behind his poisoning, in his first interview published since he left the German hospital where he was treated. “I assert that Putin is behind this act, I don’t see any other explanation,” he told the German weekly Der Spiegel, which published extracts from the interview on its website Thursday, October 1, 2020. (Photos by Mladen ANTONOV and Tiziana FABI / AFP)

The global chemical weapons watchdog said on Tuesday that samples taken from Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who claims he was poisoned by the Kremlin, contained a Novichok-type nerve agent.

The findings by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) confirm similar results by a military laboratory in Germany, where Navalny was treated in hospital, and labs in France and Sweden.

OPCW chief Fernando Arias “considered that these results constitute a matter of grave concern,” the Hague-based watchdog said in a statement.

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The OPCW said that the blood and urine samples taken from Navalny in Germany by the watchdog’s own experts contained signs of a “cholinesterase inhibitor” — a type of nerve agent.

The traces “have similar structural characteristics as the toxic chemicals” found in two Novichok chemicals that were banned by the Hague-based body in 2019.

The specific type of Novichok found in the Navalny samples was however not itself one of those placed on the banned list last year, the OPCW added.

Germany had formally requested the OPCW’s “technical assistance”, which member states are entitled to do when they believe there has been a chemical weapons incident.

OPCW chief Arias added that “the use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances (is) reprehensible and wholly contrary to the legal norms established by the international community.”

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He said it was “important now ” for (OPCW member states) “to uphold the norm they have decided to adhere to more than 25 years ago” when they signed the UN Chemical Weapons Convention.

Navalny was medically evacuated to Germany in late August after falling ill on a plane and spending several days in a Siberian hospital.

Tests by a German military laboratory found he was poisoned with the Soviet-designed nerve agent Novichok.

Russia insists its medical tests did not find poison in Navalny’s system and has not accepted Germany’s declarations, saying it requires more evidence.

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