Novichok was used to poison Vladimir Putin critic who fell ill mid-flight

Vladimir Putin’s opposition leader Alexei Navalny was poisoned ‘without doubt’ by a Novichok nerve agent, the German government has said.

Navalny, 44, who is one of the Russian leader’s fiercest critics, was airlifted to Germany after collapsing during a flight from Siberia to Moscow on August 20.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman said tests at a special military laboratory had shown ‘proof without doubt of a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok group.’

The spokesman added: ‘It is a dismaying event that Alexei Navalny was the victim of an attack with a chemical nerve agent in Russia.

‘The German government condemns this attack in the strongest terms.’

Navalny is in an induced coma at Berlin’s Charite hospital, but is in a stable condition.

Novichok is the same nerve agent used to poison former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury in 2018.

Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the attack, which the Skripals survived, but a mother-of-three, Dawn Sturgess, 44, who lived in the area, died from contacting the poison.

Germany has demanded a response from the Russian government, but the Kremlin has claimed it hadn’t been informed of Navalny being poisoned with a nerve agent.

‘Such information hasn’t been relayed to us,’ a Kremlin spokesman told the state Tass news agency.

Navalny’s allies in Russia have insisted he was deliberately poisoned by the country’s authorities, which the Kremlin has rejected as ‘empty noise.’

‘To poison Navalny with Novichok in 2020 would be exactly the same as leaving an autograph at a crime scene,’ Navalny’s longtime ally and strategist Leonid Volkov tweeted.

The Russian doctors who treated Navalny in Siberia repeatedly contested the German hospital’s poisoning conclusion, saying they had ruled out poisoning as a diagnosis and that their tests came back negative.

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