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Canada condemns poisoning of Putin critic in Russia, Champagne says


OTTAWA — Canada's minister of foreign affairs says he is deeply troubled by reports from German experts who have concluded that a Russian political opposition figure was poisoned with the same type of nerve agent used on a former spy in 2018.

Francois-Philippe Champagne says in a statement Wednesday that the Canadian government strongly condemns the poisoning of Alexei Navalny, who remains in a German hospital in serious condition.

Champagne's statement says Navalny was poisoned by a nerve agent of the Novichok group like the one used in the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the United Kingdom two years ago.

The Berlin hospital treating Navalny says his condition is improving, but expects a long recovery and can't rule out long-term consequences from the poisoning.

The German government says that testing by a special military laboratory at the hospital's request showed "proof without doubt of a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok group."

Champagne says Canada and the international community will continue to stand with Navalny and his family in their search for answers and justice.

"We strongly condemn this outrageous attack. Russian authorities must explain what happened so that those responsible may be held to account without delay," Champagne's statement says. 

"The use of chemical weapons is abhorrent and unacceptable."

Navalny, a politician and corruption investigator who is one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's fiercest critics, fell ill on a flight back to Moscow from Siberia on Aug. 20 and was taken to a hospital in the Siberian city of Omsk after the plane made an emergency landing.

He was later transferred to Berlin's Charite hospital, where doctors last week said there were indications that he had been poisoned.

The Kremlin remained tight-lipped and said it hadn't been informed of the findings, even though its ambassador in Berlin had been summoned.

"Such information hasn't been relayed to us," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the state Tass news agency.

The German government has said it will inform its partners in the European Union and NATO about the test results.

This report was first published by The Canadian Press on Sept. 2, 2020.

— With files from The Associated Press

The Canadian Press

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