Summary List Placement
Donald Trump looks increasingly alone on the world stage, as he fails to join the growing international outrage over the poisoning of the Russian opposition leader, and leading critic of President Putin, Alexey Navalny.
German chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday said that Navalny, a politician and activist whose vocal criticism of Putin’s government has made him a celebrity in Russia, had last week been poisoned in August with a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok group.
Navalny was taken ill on a plane in August after drinking a cup of tea at an airport in Siberia and is now being treated at a hospital in Germany.
Speaking at a press conference, Merkel said Navalny had been the “victim of a crime” and said his attackers “wanted to silence him.”
She added: “There are very serious questions now which only the Russian government can and must answer. The fate of Alexey Navalny has received a lot of attention worldwide. The world will wait for an answer.”
The poison was from the same group of agents used to poison former KGB agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England in 2018, an attack for which the UK and other governments hold the Russian government responsible.
UK prime minister Boris Johnson joined Merkel in offering vocal condemnation of Navalny’s poisoning.
“It’s outrageous that a chemical weapon was used against Alexey Navalny,” Johnson said on Wednesday.
“The Russian government must now explain what happened to Mr Navalny – we will work with international partners to ensure justice is done.”
Johnson’s spokesman called on other world leaders come together to act against those responsible.
“The international community must come together and use all the tools at our disposal to hold the perpetrators accountable,” he said on Thursday.
Countries, including Canada, Italy and France also joined the condemnation, with French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian saying that he condemned, “in the strongest possible terms the shocking and irresponsible use of such an agent.”
The European Union also issued a statement, with the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell saying in a statement that “The use of chemical weapons under any circumstances is completely unacceptable and a breach of international law.”
Yet despite these growing calls, both in the US and abroad, to condemn the poisoning, Trump has yet to personally address it.
Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate, on Wednesday said that Trump’s silence amounted to “complicity” in the attack.
“Once again, the Kremlin has used a favourite weapon – an agent from the Novichok class of chemicals – in an effort to silence a political opponent,” Biden said in a statement. “It is the mark of a Russian regime that is so paranoid that it is unwilling to tolerate any criticism or dissent.”
“His silence is complicity,” Biden said of Trump. “As president, I will do what Donald Trump refuses to do: work with our allies and partners to hold the Putin regime accountable for its crimes.”
The administration did address the incident on Wednesday with a statement on Twitter by John Ullyot, the National Security Council spokesperson.
“The United States is deeply troubled by the results released today. Alexei Navalny’s poisoning is completely reprehensible,” Ullyot said.
“Russia has used the chemical nerve agent Novichok in the past. 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.”
However, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who held a press conference after Merkel’s announcement, didn’t mention the poisoning, according to CNN.
John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, called on Trump to issue an “urgent statement … demanding a full explanation from the Russians.”
However, despite the growing pressure on Trump to speak out against the apparent poisoning of a Russian opposition figure, the president remains conspicuously silent on the issue.