NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg. Picture: REUTERS / JOSHUA ROBERTS
NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg. Picture: REUTERS / JOSHUA ROBERTS

Brussels — Nato has pointed the finger at Russia over the poisoning of Alexei Navalny, calling the attack “appalling” but stopping short of any immediate concrete response.

Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg reiterated a call for an international reaction to the use of a military-grade nerve agent on the Russian opposition leader, and said that alliance members are continuing discussions about what that might be.

“All allies today were united in condemning this attack,” Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels after hosting a meeting with Nato envoys.

Navalny, a prominent critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been in a Berlin hospital for the past two weeks after falling violently ill on a domestic flight in Russia and being evacuated to the German capital for treatment. The apparent attempted murder risks sharpening a deterioration in the West’s relations with Moscow.

Three decades after the Cold War ended, Western governments are focusing again on threats posed by Russia due to its renewed muscle-flexing, including encroachment in Eastern Ukraine where it annexed Crimea in 2014.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday that tests showed “unequivocally” Navalny was poisoned by a military-grade Novichok nerve agent.

The substance was used in the attempted murder in March 2018 of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter on British soil — an act that prompted a concerted expulsion of 150 Russian diplomats.

“The use of such a weapon is horrific,” Stoltenberg said. “Any use of chemical weapons shows a total disrespect for human lives and is an unacceptable breach of international norms and rules.”

Russian officials said doctors found no evidence Navalny was poisoned before he left for Germany.

As they map out a response, Merkel and the EU have called on the Russian government to urgently provide answers.

EU foreign-policy chief Josep Borrell has demanded “an impartial international investigation” and dangled the possibility of sanctions.


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