The German government announced on Wednesday that Alexei Navalny had been poisoned with a chemical neurotransmitter from the Novichok group – the Kremlin’s Russian spy Sergei Skribal and his daughter were poisoned in the UK in March 2018.
Leaders around the world, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, have strongly condemned and called on the Russian government to respond. But US President Donald Trump – who has faced harsh criticism for his lenient approach to Russia – has been almost silent on Navalny’s poisoning, a US response from a National Security Council spokesman on Wednesday.
This is the latest incident in which Trump has failed to speak to the Kremlin and seek answers to issues ranging from electoral intervention to the forthcoming bounties on US troops in Afghanistan.
At a news conference on Wednesday, Merkel called Navalny a “victim of a crime” and said, “They wanted to silence him, and I condemn this on behalf of the entire federal government.”
“Now there are very serious questions that can and should be answered only by the Russian government,” Merkel said. “Alexei Navalny’s fate has received a lot of attention around the world. The world will be waiting for an answer.”
Johnson told Navalny that “the Russian government must now explain what happened.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday that there was no information from Germany that the Kremlin had poisoned Novichok, according to the Russian state news agency DOS.
“The United States is deeply concerned by the results released today. Alexei Navalny’s poison is completely reprehensible. Russia has used a chemical neurotransmitter called Novichok in the past,” Uliot said. “We will work with allies and the international community to hold those in Russia accountable and to control funding for their misdeeds wherever the evidence goes.”
“The Russian people have the right to express their views quietly without fear of retaliation, and certainly not with chemical agents,” he tweeted.
Trump’s only public comments on the subject came shortly after Navalny was taken to hospital.
When asked about the issue on August 20, Trump said, “We haven’t seen this yet. We’ll see it. Mike is going to report to me soon.”
On Wednesday, former national security adviser John Bolten urged the president to speak.
However, Bolton said in his book that Trump would suspend those sanctions until a summit with Putin is held in Helsinki, Finland in July 2018.
After they were announced, Bolton said Trump wanted to reinstate them and thought they were “too hard on Putin.”
CNN’s Stephanie Halas, Brioni Jones and Gianluca Mesophire contributed to the report.