Germany and France seek EU sanctions on Russians over Navalny
LUXEMBOURG, October 12 (Reuters). Germany and France on Monday urged their partners in the European Union to consider sanctions against Russians suspected of having poisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny with a nerve agent.
Berlin and Paris say they haven't received a credible explanation from Moscow about what the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) described as the presence in his body of the banned Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok.
"This (violation of the Chemicals Convention) cannot remain without consequences," said Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas to reporters when he came to a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg.
Western governments and NATO have stated that Russia, which has denied Navalny’s allegations of poisoning him in August, must help investigate or face the consequences.
Navalny fell ill on August 20 on a flight in Siberia and was then flown to Berlin for treatment.
"France and Germany propose to impose sanctions on certain people who have caught our attention in this regard," said Maas, without giving any details.
According to diplomats, the two countries plan to propose sanctions against several Russian GRU military intelligence officers.
The speed with which the two main European powers agreed to press ahead with the sanctions indicated a tightening of the bloc's diplomacy towards Moscow. It contrasts with 2018, when it took almost a year for the EU to agree sanctions against Russians following a nerve agent attack on a Russian spy in the UK.
Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, whose country is one of Russia's closest allies in the bloc, said there could be no "return to normal business" and Moscow had failed to dispel doubts about the poisoning.
Blood samples taken from Navalny confirmed the presence of a nerve agent from the banned Novichok family, the OPCW said last week. (Reporting by Sabine Siebold in Berlin and Robin Emmott in Brussels, editing by Timothy Heritage)
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