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Alexei Navalny talks poisoning motive as chemical weapons watchdog confirms presence of Novichok

Blood samples taken from Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny confirmed the presence of a nerve agent in the banned Novichok family, the global chemical weapons watchdog said on Tuesday.

Navalny says his recovery from poisoning could take another 2 months

Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny gives an interview with prominent Russian YouTube blogger Yury Dud, in Berlin, in this still image taken from a handout video released Oct. 6. (YouTube - vDud/Reuters TV)

Blood samples taken from Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny confirmed the presence of a nerve agent in the banned Novichok family, the global chemical weapons watchdog said on Tuesday.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said in a statement that the biomarkers in his blood and urine had "similar structural characteristics as the toxic chemicals belonging" to the Novichok group.

The findings follow results released by Germany, where the outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin was treated after falling ill on a flight in Siberia on Aug. 20. Berlin asked the OPCW to take samples from Navalny and test them after German doctors concluded he had been poisoned with Novichok.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesperson, Steffen Seibert, said in a statement: "This once again confirms unequivocally that Alexei Navalny was the victim of an attack with a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok group."

Western governments have called for sanctions against Moscow over the case.

Russia denies any involvement and has said it doubts Navalny was poisoned.

"No doubt Novichok nerve agent used to poison Alexey #Navalny," Britain's delegation at the OPCW said on Twitter. "Any use of a banned chemical weapon is a matter of great concern."

Navalny points to upcoming elections

Novichok, a Soviet-era nerve toxin, was also used to poison a former Russian spy and his daughter in England in 2018. The OPCW's member states agreed last year to ban chemicals in the Novichok family, a ban that went into effect four months ago.

Navalny, meanwhile, said he believed Russia's intelligence services had poisoned him because authorities saw him as a threat ahead of next year's parliamentary elections.

"They understood that there were big, big problems threatening them ahead of elections for the State Duma," Navalny said in a YouTube interview with a Russian blogger, his first video appearance since being discharged from a Berlin hospital.

Navalny said he did not know how a Novichok nerve agent had got into his system, but that he could have touched something.

He said his recovery could take another two months. At one point in the interview he held out his hand to show it shaking.

Navalny said he was undergoing physical therapy, but that his health had improved significantly and that doctors were surprised at the speed of his recovery.

Russia's parliamentary elections are due to take place in September, although some media reports have suggested they could be pushed back to next spring.

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