Dominic Raab condemns Russian ‘gangsterism’ after Alexei Navalny attack


Dominic Raab calls for international response to Russian ‘gangsterism’ as he says it is ‘difficult’ to believe poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny was not a state-backed operation

  • Dominic Raab has stepped up claims Russian state involved in Navalny attack
  • Foreign Secretary hit out at ‘gangsterism’ and urged international response
  • The opposition leader is being treated in Germany after suddenly falling ill  

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab (pictured in London today) said Moscow had a ‘case to answer’ over the use of banned chemical weapon Novichok against Alexei Navalny

Dominic Raab hit out at Russian ‘gangsterism’ today as he said it is ‘difficult to believe’ the state was not involved in poisoning a prominent opponent of Vladimir Putin.

The Foreign Secretary said Moscow had a ‘case to answer’ over the use of banned chemical weapon Novichok against Alexei Navalny.

The comments came as the UK pushes for a tough international response to the episode – which has echoes of the 2018 Salisbury attack on a former Russian spy. 

Mr Navalny, the most popular and prominent opponent of President Putin, is being treated in Germany, where the authorities have confirmed he was targeted with the nerve agent.

The Kremlin has dismissed allegations it was involved, complaining that no evidence has been supplied by Germany. 

But on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show today, Mr Raab pointed the finger squarely at the Russian authorities.

Asked whether he thought the Russian state was involved, the Cabinet minister said: ‘I think it’s very difficult to come up with a plausible alternative explanation based on Russia’s track record … of using it – Salisbury – based on the difficulty of getting hold of, let alone deploying Novichok as it’s such a dangerous substance.

‘As I said, the case to answer is there for Russia and we need, I think, through the OPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons), an investigation and Russia needs to co-operate fully.

Mr Navalny (pictured at a rally in Moscow last year) fell ill on a flight back to Moscow from Siberia on August 20 before being transferred to Berlin. The 44-year-old remains on a ventilator in intensive care

Mr Navalny (pictured at a rally in Moscow last year) fell ill on a flight back to Moscow from Siberia on August 20 before being transferred to Berlin. The 44-year-old remains on a ventilator in intensive care

Mr Navalny is regarded as the most popular and prominent opponent of President Vladimir Putin (pictured in Moscow yesterday)

Mr Navalny is regarded as the most popular and prominent opponent of President Vladimir Putin (pictured in Moscow yesterday)

What is Novichok and how does it kill? 

The Novichok family of nerve agents were secretly developed over two decades at a research facility 50 miles outside the Russian capital.

Many times more potent than other better known chemical weapons, Novichok agents can render gas masks and protective equipment useless.

Sometimes described as ‘gases’ they are in fact liquid, intended to be delivered as a fine spray.

A series of poisons, known as Novichok 5, 7, 8 and 9 to identify them, were produced amid conditions of complete secrecy.

They all kill the same way. By inhibiting enzymes that control nerve receptors in the brain.

One expert said victims simply ‘forget to breathe’. A tiny drop, almost undetectable, placed on the skin or inhaled can cause death within minutes.  

‘What’s clear also is that it can’t just say ”this is a domestic issue, it is just our internal affairs”.

‘The use of chemical weapons in this kind of context is pure gangsterism and Russia does have responsibility never to use it as a government, and second of all to make sure no-one else can use it within its territory.’

Corruption investigator Mr Navalny fell ill on a flight back to Moscow from Siberia on August 20 before being transferred to Berlin. The 44-year-old remains on a ventilator in intensive care.

Last week German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Mr Navalny was the victim of ‘attempted murder by poisoning’ with Novichok and added that the aim was to ‘silence’ an opponent of Mr Putin.

However, Donald Trump hinted the US might take a softer line over the past few days, suggesting more evidence was needed.

‘It’s tragic. It’s terrible, it shouldn’t happen. We haven’t had any proof yet, but I will take a look,’ he said. 

The UK has long accused Russian operatives of using the Soviet-era poison on Sergei Skripal, the former double agent targeted in the 2018 attack in Salisbury, Wiltshire.

As foreign secretary, Boris Johnson helped organise a wave of expulsions of Russian diplomats across the EU and US after Britain told 23 envoys to leave.

Mr Skripal and his daughter Yulia were two of five people exposed to the substance in Wiltshire, both spending weeks in hospital recovering.

But Dawn Sturgess, 44, of Amesbury, Wiltshire, died in July that year after coming into contact with a perfume bottle thought to originally contain the poison, while her partner, Charlie Rowley, spent nearly three weeks in hospital.

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