Germany’s Nord Stream CRISIS: Merkel under pressure to cut Russia ties over Navalny attack

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Last month, the Russian opposition politician was flown to Berlin after falling ill on a flight to Serbia and remains in a coma. His team claim he was poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent.

Germany’s chancellor has since said Mr Navalny was a victim of attempted murder and urged the world to look for Russia for answers.

Frau Merkel said: “Someone tried to silence [Mr Navalny] and in the name of the whole German government I condemn that in the strongest terms.”

The Kremlin has dismissed the allegations and called for Germany to provide information and evidence.

The Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakhharova, asked: “Where are the facts? Where are the formulas, at least some kind of information?”f

Now, Ms Merkel is facing pressure to scrap the Nord Stream 2 pipeline development with Russia.

Norbert Roettgen, head of Germany’s parliamentary foreign affairs committee, told Deutchlandfunk radio today: “There must be a European response.

“We must pursue hard politics, we must respond with the only language [Vladimir] Putin understands – that is gas sales.”

The Nord Stream 2 is a new export gas pipeline running from Russia to Europe across the Baltic Sea.

Following the poisoning of Mr Navalny, Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the Munich Security Conference and a former ambassador to Washington, backed a response from the EU and NATO.

He said: “If we want to send a clear message to Moscow with our partners, then economic relations must be on the agenda and that means the Nord Stream 2 project must not be left out.

“We can’t put up a wall between the West and Russia, that would be a step too far, but there is a middle ground, something between diplomatic gestures and total boycott.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also called for an inquiry into the matter while the US National Security Council (NSC) said they will hold Russia to account.

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An NSC spokesman said: “We will work with allies and the international community to hold those in Russia accountable, wherever the evidence leads, and restrict funds for their malign activities.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also hit back at Russia and urged Moscow to explain what happened.

He said: “The Russian government must now explain what happened to Mr Navalny – we will work with international partners to ensure justice is done.”

Back in 2018, a Novichok nerve agent was used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK.

Both survived but Dawn Sturgess was exposed to the same nerve agent and later died in hospital.

The UK accused Russia’s military intelligence of carrying out the attack.

The name Novichok applies to a group of advanced nerve agents developed by the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s.

Novichok agents block messages from the nerves to the muscles, causing the collapse of many bodily functions.

They were reportedly designed to be more toxic than other chemical weapons.

Some versions can take effect rapidly from 30 seconds to two minutes.

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