Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny was poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent, Germany claims.
After the government in Berlin released results of toxicology tests carried out at a military laboratory, Chancellor Merkel said there were now “serious questions that only the Russian government can and must answer”.
“Someone tried to silence [Mr Navalny] and in the name of the whole German government I condemn that in the strongest terms.”
Chancellor Merkel said Germany’s Nato and EU partners had been informed of the results of the investigation and they would decide on a common and appropriate response based on Russia’s reaction.
Mr Navalny’s wife Yulia Navalnaya and Russia’s ambassador to Germany would also be informed of the findings, the Berlin government said.
The European Union has demanded a “transparent” investigation by the Russian government. “Those responsible must be brought to justice,” a statement read.
Mr Navalny was flown to Berlin after falling ill on a flight in Siberia last month, and remains in a coma.
His team says he was poisoned on President Vladimir Putin’s orders. The Kremlin has dismissed the allegation.
The Kremlin spokesman called on Germany for a full exchange of information and foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova complained the Novichok allegations were not backed up by evidence. “Where are the facts, where are the formulas, at least some kind of information?” she asked.
A Novichok nerve agent was used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK in 2018. While they survived, a British woman later died in hospital. The UK accused Russia’s military intelligence of carrying out that attack.
Novichok developed by the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s blocking messages from the nerves to the muscles, causing a collapse of many bodily functions. While some Novichok agents are liquids, others are thought to exist in solid form. This means they can be dispersed as an ultra-fine powder.
Novichoks were designed to be more toxic than other chemical weapons, so some versions begin to take effect rapidly – in the order of 30 seconds to two minutes.