Berlin | Germany, which currently chairs the European Union, will begin discussions on possible sanctions against Russia if Moscow does not deliver “in the next few days” explanations of the poisoning of the opponent Alexeï Navalny, warned Sunday his head of diplomacy.
“Setting ultimatums does not help anyone, but if in the next few days the Russian side does not help clarify what happened, then we will have to discuss a response with our partners,” Heiko Maas told the Daily Bild.
He added that if sanctions were to be decided, they would have to be “targeted”.
Bête noire of the Kremlin, Alexeï Navalny is currently hospitalized in Berlin, where according to Angela Merkel’s government, doctors have established “unequivocally” that he had been poisoned in Russia, before his transfer, by a Novichok-type nerve agent, designed in Soviet times for military purposes.
Berlin and other Western countries have repeatedly urged Moscow to shed light on the poisoning, but so far Russian authorities have remained unmoved.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he greeted the assassination accusations with “a good dose of skepticism” and asked Berlin to provide evidence.
His German counterpart, for the first time so clearly on the part of Berlin, implicated the Russian state in the poisoning.
“There are several clues in this direction, which is why the Russian side must now react,” he said.
“The deadly substance with which Navalny was poisoned was in the past in the possession of the Russian authorities, only a small number of people have access to Novichok and this poison has already been used by the Russian services for the attack on it. ‘ex-agent [russe] Sergei Skripal ”, added Mr. Maas.
Regarding possible sanctions that could be discussed by European countries, the German foreign minister did not completely rule out the project being completed for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which is supposed to supply Germany and Europe with Russian gas, but which is highly contested, particularly by the United States.
“I hope in any case that the Russians will not force us to change our position on Nord Stream”, added the minister, while calling for the consequences of a possible cancellation of the project to be properly measured and not to “reduce” the debate on sanctions on this one issue.