National Security

Top U.S. Officials Slam Russia for Putin Critic Poisoning

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny / Getty Images

Senior U.S. officials slammed Moscow following reports Wednesday that Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was poisoned by a Soviet-era toxin.

"Alexei Navalny's poisoning is completely reprehensible," National Security Council spokesman John Ullyot said in an official statement. "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," he added.

U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe James Gilmore also rebuked the Kremlin in an official statement, saying, "Such incidents of violence against government critics have the chilling effect of silencing independent voices, which is the intention of an attack like this. … They illustrate Russia's contempt for human life, international law, and its international commitments."

On Wednesday, Germany announced that Navalny, a prominent critic of Russian president Vladimir Putin, was poisoned by Novichok, a nerve agent created by the Soviet Union. Navalny, who is currently in a medically induced coma, was transported to Germany after becoming seriously ill on a flight in Russia last month.

Russia has used Novichok against the Kremlin's rivals in the past—British authorities discovered that Russian intelligence operatives attempted to assassinate Sergei Skripal, a former Russian double agent, with the highly lethal poison in 2018.

National security writer Tom Rogan wrote Thursday that "the use of Novichok makes clear two basic points: that Putin wanted Navalny dead and that Putin assumed Navalny would die painfully but quickly."

President Trump has not yet made an official statement regarding the Navalny poisoning. Moscow, meanwhile, denies any wrongdoing.