The German government announced Wednesday that Alexey Navalny had been poisoned with a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok group — the same agent the Kremlin used to poison ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the United Kingdom in March 2018.
Leaders around the world, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, offered strong condemnation and called for answers from the Russian government. But US President Donald Trump — who has faced sharp criticism for his soft-handed approach to Russia — has been virtually silent on Navalny’s poisoning and the US response on Wednesday came from a National Security Council spokesperson.
It is the latest instance of Trump failing to speak out and call for answers from the Kremlin on issues ranging from election interference to possible bounties on US troops in Afghanistan.
At a news conference Wednesday, Merkel called Navalny “the victim of a crime,” saying, “They wanted to silence him, and I condemn this in the strongest possible terms, also on behalf of the entire federal government.”
“There are very serious questions now which only the Russian government can and must answer,” Merkel said. “The fate of Alexey Navalny has received a lot of attention worldwide. The world will wait for an answer.”
Johnson said that “the Russian government must now explain what happened” to Navalny.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday that the Kremlin had not received any information from Germany that Navalny had been poisoned with Novichok, according to Russian state news agency Tass.
“The United States is deeply troubled by the results released today. Alexei Navalny’s poisoning is completely reprehensible. Russia has used the chemical nerve agent Novichok in the past,” Ullyot said. “We will work with allies and the international community to hold those in Russia accountable, wherever the evidence leads, and restrict funds for their malign activities.”
“The Russian people have a right to express their views peacefully without fear of retribution of any kind, and certainly not with chemical agents,” he said in the tweets.
Trump’s only public comments on the topic came shortly after Navalny was taken to hospital.
“We haven’t seen it yet. We’re looking at it. And Mike is going to be reporting to me soon,” Trump said when asked about the matter on August 20.
On Wednesday, former national security adviser John Bolton urged the President to speak out.
However, in his book, Bolton claimed that Trump had held off on those sanctions until after his summit with Putin in Helsinki, Finland, in July 2018.
After they were announced, Bolton said, Trump wanted to rescind them and thought they “were being too tough on Putin.”
CNN’s Stephanie Halasz, Bryony Jones and Gianluca Mezzofiore contributed to this report.