West presses Russia for answers on Alexei Navalny poisoning

A group of 45 countries including Britain, Germany and Canada demanded at the global toxic arms watchdog on Tuesday that Russia provide answers about the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

Russia has 10 days to respond to the questions posed by the countries, under the rules of the Hague-based Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), delegates said.

Western countries say opposition leader Navalny was poisoned in Russia with the Soviet-era neve agent Novichok in August last year. He was treated in Germany before returning to Russia, where he is now in jail.

“Today, 45 States Parties including Britain have informed the OPCW executive council that they will formally put questions to Russia about the poisoning of @navalny under Article 9 of the Convention,” British delegates said in a tweet.

“Russia has 10 days to answer,” they added.

Canada and Germany tweeted that they had also signed the statement from the 45 countries.

“It is essential that Russia sets out in detail the steps taken to investigate and shed light on the use of a chemical weapon on its territory,” said a portion of the statement quoted on the British delegation’s Twitter account.

Comprising 41 member states, the OPCW’s executive council is meeting this week to discuss progress in ridding the world of chemical arms, including taking measures when state parties do not comply.

Western states also called on Russia’s ally Syria to let in arms inspectors, saying Damascus continued to breach its obligations to the OPCW.

Numerous countries issued statements calling on Russia to clarify Navalny’s poisoning.

Moscow has always denied involvement.

Navalny himself has blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for the attack. The opposition leader was arrested on his return from treatment in Germany last January and jailed on old fraud charges.

Britain meanwhile said it would continue to press Russia over a 2018 Novichok attack on a former double agent in the English city of Salisbury.

Sergei Skripal and his daughter were left fighting for their lives after the attack, while a police officer investigating the case fell seriously ill and a local woman who came into contact with the nerve agent later died.

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