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EU condemns Navalny incident as assassination attempt, deprecates actions of Lukashenko

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell called on Moscow to cooperate with the OPCW in investigating the case of the Russian opposition politician

BRUSSELS, September 15. /TASS/. The EU sees the incident with Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny as an assassination attempt with the use of chemical weapons, calling on Russia to cooperate with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in its investigation, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said during a session of the European Parliament on Tuesday.

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this assassination attempt," Borrell said. "The use of chemical weapons by anyone, anywhere, at any time and under any circumstances constitutes a serious breach of international law and international human rights standards. So we keep calling upon the Russian authorities to cooperate fully in this investigation and particularly with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons," he added. The EU foreign policy chief did not provide any proof of Navalny’s alleged poisoning during the session.

Head of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service Sergei Naryshkin said earlier on Tuesday that poisonous substances were not present in Navalny’s system at the moment of his departure from Russia to Germany for treatment.

According to Naryshkin, medics at the Omsk hospital, where Navalny had been initially hospitalized, conducted all necessary examinations.

"Our Russian medics, medics at the Omsk hospital, who saved Alexei Navalny’s life, conducted a deep complex of examinations in a short time span, including examinations for presence of toxic and […] poisonous substances. These examinations were performed using the newest equipment and in compliance with the strictest medical protocols," the Russian foreign intelligence chief underscored.

He added that the German law enforcement failed to answer the questions raised by Russia.

"We have a lot of questions to the German side, and the Prosecutor General’s Office requested aid in the investigation twice, but there is still no response. And, as far as I understand, our Prosecutor General’s Office, our Investigative Committee […] have a lot of questions to the German side," Naryshkin said.

Developments in Belarus

Having initially dubbed Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko the illegitimate president of Ukraine, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell shortly corrected himself. "We consider the elections on the 9th of August fraudulent, Lukashenko is not the legitimate president of Ukraine," he stated. "Sorry, Belarus. What I was thinking about," Borrel said.  

Josep Borrell stressed that the EU condemns the arrests of several thousand protesters and the use of force by the police in Belarus. He added that on August 14, during an extraordinary session of EU foreign ministers, they decided to adopt sanctions against Belarus "as soon as possible." "We are trying to apply a gradual approach, and if the situation further deteriorates, additional sanctions will be envisaged," he said. "From our point of view, the re-run of elections under OSCE supervision will be the best solution, but so far, it has been impossible for us to reach out to Belarus’ authorities at any level," Borrell pointed out.

Earlier, sources in Brussels informed that EU states had prepared a list of about 40 Belarusian officials, including the interior minister, set to be blacklisted. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is not on this list, as leading EU states, namely Germany and France, aim to keep "a window of opportunity" for dialogue with the Belarusian leader.

Borrell did not specify when this list would be approved and when sanctions would enter into force, because as of present, Cyprus continues to block the introduction of sanctions against Belarus. Nicosia demands that EU states first introduce sanctions against Turkey, which currently conducts geological exploration in Cyprus’ waters.

After the speech of the EU foreign policy chief, several European MPs voiced their proposals on what the EU policy on Belarus should be. The MPs offered to recognize Svetlana Tikhanovskaya as the legitimate president of the country, award her and her colleagues the Sakharov Prize, declare an international investigation of Lukashenko’s crimes and extend EU sanctions to Russian reporters that covered the situation in Belarus and spread "Lukashenko’s propaganda" on Russian TV channels.

Nationwide demonstrations have engulfed Belarus following the August 9 presidential election. According to the Central Election Commission’s official results, incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko won by a landslide, garnering 80.10% of the vote. His closest rival in the race, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, came in second, with 10.12% of the ballot. However, she refused to recognize the election’s outcome, and left Belarus for Lithuania. After the results of the exit polls were announced late on August 9, mass protests erupted in downtown Minsk and other Belarusian cities. During the early post-election period, the rallies snowballed into fierce clashes between the protesters and police. The current unrest is being cheered on by the opposition’s Coordination Council, which has been beating the drum for more protests. In response, the Belarusian authorities have castigated the ongoing turmoil and demanded that these unauthorized demonstrations be stopped.