The German government on Friday branded as “unjustified” plans by Russia to impose retaliatory sanctions on German and French officials over the poisoning of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert was reacting to an announcement on Thursday by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that the Kremlin had confirmed it would soon inform Germany and France of new sanctions against them.
Lavrov described the step as a response to the European Union’s move to slap sanctions on several Russian officials in October.
The bloc had argued the August poisoning of Navalny could not have been carried out without the complicity of Moscow’s security services.
“Russia has all the means at its disposal to get to the bottom of this crime and instead it levels sanctions against officials of other states,” Seibert said.
He called the punitive measures “unjustified and inappropriate”, saying that Russia was “disregarding the international interest in solving this case”.
Instead, Moscow was “making it an issue in its bilateral relations with Germany and France”.
The 44-year-old anti-graft campaigner collapsed on a flight in Russia in August and was transported to Germany where experts concluded he was poisoned with the Soviet-designed nerve agent Novichok.
Navalny has said he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin approved the poisoning, while the Kremlin has strenuously denied involvement and accused Germany of refusing to cooperate in an investigation.
Lavrov on Thursday added without providing evidence that Moscow had “reason to believe” the nerve agent could have entered Navalny’s system during the flight to Berlin’s Charite hospital or while he was in Germany.
Navalny’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh called the suggestion that Navalny was poisoned in Germany “the most idiotic of them all”.
Doctors who treated Navalny before he was flown to Berlin said last week that he had not been poisoned but instead was suffering from metabolic issues and pancreatitis.
Navalny remains in Germany for treatment but has vowed to return to Russia after making a full recovery.