Chemical Weapons Watchdog Says Examining Navalny Samples

The global chemical weapons watchdog confirmed Thursday that it had sent experts to Germany to collect samples from Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and that results of tests for Novichok poisoning were “forthcoming.”

Berlin had formally requested its “technical assistance” over Navalny’s alleged poisoning, the Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said.

The West says Kremlin critic Navalny, who is being treated in a Berlin hospital, was poisoned with Novichok and has pushed Russia to shed light on the incident. Moscow denies all involvement.

“A team of experts from the (OPCW’s) Technical Secretariat independently collected biomedical samples from Mr. Navalny for analysis by OPCW designated laboratories,” the OPCW said in a statement.

“Results of this analysis are forthcoming and will be shared with the German authorities.”

OPCW chief Fernando Arias earlier this month voiced “grave concern” over the Navalny incident.

Germany said on Monday that labs in France and Sweden had confirmed its own finding that the banned weapons-grade substance was used, but that it was awaiting the OPCW’s evaluation.

The Navalny case threatens to cause fresh tensions at the toxic arms watchdog.

Germany could ask the OPCW to use its recently acquired mandate to attribute blame for chemical attacks — powers that Russia and its allies have bitterly opposed.

Until OPCW member states voted to give the body the new powers in 2018, it was only able to say whether chemical weapons had been used, but not by whom.

Britain drafted in the OPCW for “technical assistance” after former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with Novichok in the city of Salisbury in 2018, but that was before it had the new powers.

Chemical Arms Watchdog Voices ‘Grave Concern’ Over Navalny Case

The head of the world chemical arms watchdog expressed “grave concern” on Thursday after Germany said Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny had been poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok.

Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Director-General Fernando Arias added that the Hague-based body was ready to help any member country that asked for its assistance.

“Under the Chemical Weapons Convention, any poisoning of an individual through the use of a nerve agent is considered a use of chemical weapons. Such an allegation is a matter of grave concern,” Arias said in a statement.

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

“The OPCW continues to monitor the situation and stands ready to engage with and to assist any states parties that may request its assistance,” Arias added.

Germany said on Wednesday that it was going to contact the OPCW about the case but did not say if it would seek its help, as it is entitled to under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

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