Washington DC, Sep 9 (efe-epa). There is “a substantial chance” that opposition leader Alexei Navalny was poisoned as part of an operation ordered by senior officials in the Russian government, United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday.
Russia’s most prominent critic of President Vladmir Putin fell violently ill on a flight from Siberia to Moscow last month and is being treated in Berlin, Germany. The German government announced last week that he had been poisoned with a chemical nerve agent of the Soviet-era novichok family.
“I think people all around the world see this kind of activity for what it is,” Pompeo said in a radio interview with conservative host Ben Shapiro.
“And when they see the effort to poison a dissident, and they recognize that there is a substantial chance that this actually came from senior Russian officials, I think this is not good for the Russian people,” he added, according to a transcript released by the State Department. “I think it’s not good for Russia.”
The head of US diplomacy said that the European Union, EU countries and the US have “all made clear to the Russians our expectations that they will hold those responsible for this accountable.”
“We’ll do our best to come to a conclusion about who was responsible,” promised Pompeo, who did not specify whether Washington will take action against Moscow for the poisoning.
Pompeo’s statements contradict President Donald Trump, who last week said he had not seen “any proof” that Navalny was poisoned and assured that if this is confirmed, he will be “very angry,” but did not warn Moscow of any consequences.
“I don’t know exactly what happened. I think it’s tragic, it’s terrible, it shouldn’t happen,” Trump said, adding: “We haven’t had any proof yet, but I will take a look at it.”
The US in the beginning took a much softer stance than that of Germany and the rest of its NATO allies, who demanded that Russia cooperate with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in an international and impartial investigation into the assassination attempt.
This week Pompeo urged Russia to clarify the attack on Navalny in a statement issued after a meeting of G7 foreign ministers.
Novichok was originally developed by the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s and was banned last year by the OPCW.
The same substance was used against the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the British city of Salisbury in 2018.
Navalny was taken out of an induced coma this week for the first time since he was admitted to Berlin’s Charité hospital on Aug. 22.
Russia has denied any involvement in the poisoning. EFE-EPA