The Kremlin on Thursday rejected claims that Moscow was behind the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, as calls mounted for international action after Germany said he had been dosed with Novichok.
Western leaders are demanding answers from Moscow after Berlin said Wednesday there was “unequivocal evidence” that the 44-year-old Kremlin critic had been afflicted by the infamous nerve agent.
Navalny, one of President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critics, fell ill on a flight last month and was treated in a Siberian hospital before being evacuated to Berlin.
Germany’s claim that he was exposed to Novichok — the same substance used against Russian ex-double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English town of Salisbury two years ago — prompted widespread condemnation and demands for an investigation.
Russia denies there is any evidence that Navalny was poisoned and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday that Berlin had not provided Moscow with proof.
“There is no reason to accuse the Russian state,” Peskov said, rejecting talk of economic sanctions and urging the West not to “rush to judgement”.
Already suffering from wide-ranging Western sanctions imposed over its 2014 annexation of Crimea, as well as the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and the drop in oil prices, Moscow will be anxious to avoid any further pressure on its economy.