Germany on Sunday increased the pressure on Russia over the poisoning of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny, warning that a lack of beef up by Moscow in the investigation could “force” Germany to rethink the destiny of a German-Russian gas pipeline project.
“I am hoping the Russians won’t force us to change our position regarding the Nord Stream 2” pipeline being built under the Baltic Sea, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
Maas also said “whether there won’t be any contributions from the Russian side regarding the investigation in the coming days, we can have to refer to with our partners.” He did not exclude conceivable sanctions against Russia, telling the newspaper that such measures will have to be “pinpointed effectively.” Alternatively, Maas also admitted that halting the building of the almost completed gas pipeline would harm German and European companies in addition to Russia.
“Whoever demands this has to pay attention to the consequences,” he said. “More than 100 companies from 12 European countries are involved (in the construction), approximately half of them from Germany.” The German government has come under growing pressure to use the joint German-Russian pipeline project as leverage in getting Russia to supply answers on Navalny. The Nord Stream 2 project would deliver Russian gas directly to Germany under the Baltic Sea when completed, bypassing Ukraine.
Navalny, a Kremlin critic and corruption investigator, fell ill on a flight to Moscow on August 20 and was once taken to a hospital in the Siberian city of Omsk. He has been in an induced coma in a Berlin hospital since he was once flown to Germany for remedy on August 22.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called Navalny’s poisoning an attempted homicide that aimed to silence one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critics and called for a full investigation.
German authorities say tests showed that he had been poisoned with a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok group. British authorities up to now identified the nerve agent, developed all the way through the Soviet era, as the poison used to target former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England in 2018.
“We have high expectations from the Russians to cause light into this severe crime,” Maas said. “Whether they have got nothing to do with this attack, then it’s in their own interest to put the facts on the table.” France also added pressure on Sunday, suggesting the potential for sanctions whether Moscow fails to quickly respond to European demands for answers approximately Navalny’s poisoning.
“It’s a serious situation. It’s serious firstly because it’s the poisoning of another opposition figure. And it’s serious because the substance that was once used, Novichok, is banned,” said dressing Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, speaking on France Inter radio.
“(The Russians) should now let us know the truth in order that we will be able to act accordingly … When we say quickly, it’s quickly, that’s to say a week, now. It’s a traumatizing event for everyone,” he said.
Putin’s spokesman has brushed off allegations that the Kremlin was once involved in poisoning Navalny and said final week that Germany hadn’t given Moscow with any evidence approximately the politician’s condition.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova reiterated Moscow’s claim Sunday that Germany hadn’t given any evidence since Russia requested it in late August.
“Dear Mr. Maas, whether the government of the Federal Republic of Germany is honest in its statements, then it will have to itself be interested in preparing a response to the request of the Prosecutor General’s Office of Russia as soon as conceivable,” Zakharova wrote in a Facebook posting.
Maas rejected that accusation later Sunday, saying Germany had long agreed to Russia’s request and had told the country’s ambassador to Berlin so final week.
“There is not any reason why we shouldn’t agree to this request and subsequently this is another one of their smoke grenades — we have seen several of those all the way through the final days and I’m afraid there will be more in coming days,” Maas told ARD public Television.
Merkel personally offered the country’s assistance in treating Navalny. He’s now in steady condition at Berlin’s Charite hospital, but doctors expect a long recovery and haven’t ruled out that the 44-year-old could face long-term effects to his health from the poisoning.
Merkel has up to now rejected the concept the Navalny case be linked to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.
The USA has long objected the project, which has been an increasing number of a source of friction between Berlin and Washington. In August, three Republican senators threatened sanctions against an operator of a Baltic Sea port located in Merkel’s parliamentary constituency over its part in Nord Stream 2. The Mukran port is a key staging post for ships involved in its construction.
The USA argues the project will hazard European security by making Germany overly dependent on Russian gas. It’s also objected by Ukraine and Poland, which will be bypassed by the pipeline under the Baltic, in addition to some other European nations.
Along with the security concerns, america also wants to sell more of its own liquefied natural gas, or LNG, to Europe.