Merkel tells Russia to investigate suspected poisoning of Kremlin critic
BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Russia to investigate the suspected poisoning of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny and hold the perpetrators accountable after doctors found indications of a toxic substance in his body. A critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Navalny last week collapsed on a plane after drinking tea while on his way to campaign in Siberia. He was flown to Germany for treatment on Saturday. The Kremlin has said it was unclear what caused Navalny to fall ill and that initial tests did not show he was poisoned, as his aides charged. But German doctors treating Navalny at a Berlin hospital said on Monday that medical examinations indicated poisoning with some kind of cholinesterase inhibitor, although the specific substance is not yet known. “In light of the prominent role played by Mr. Navalny in the political opposition in Russia, the authorities there are now urgently called upon to investigate this crime to the last detail - and do so in full transparency,” Merkel said in a joint statement with Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. “Those responsible must be identified and held accountable,” Merkel added. Berlin’s Charite hospital said a team of doctors there had examined him in detail after his arrival. “Clinical findings indicate poisoning with a substance from the group of cholinesterase inhibitors,” the hospital said in a statement. “The specific substance involved remains unknown, and a further series of comprehensive testing has been initiated.” Russian health officials contradicted the German diagnosis, saying Navalny had tested negative for cholinesterase inhibitors when he was hospitalised in Omsk last week. Navalny showed no signs of having been poisoned when he was admitted to the clinic and tests were carried out on him to check for a wide range of substances, including inhibitors, the health ministry in Omsk said in a statement.