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Trump remains silent on the poisoning of Putin's top opponent as other world leaders demand answers from Russia

Business Insider logo Business Insider 9/2/2020 insider@insider.com (John Haltiwanger)
a person wearing a suit and tie: Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. Reuters © Reuters Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. Reuters
  • World leaders on Wednesday condemned Russia over Germany's announcement that Vladimir Putin's top opponent was poisoned, but President Donald Trump stayed conspicuously silent. 
  • The nerve agent Novichok was found in Alexei Navalny's system, Germany said on Wednesday. 
  • The National Security Council's spokesperson issued a statement, but Trump didn't say anything as he continued to attack his own political opponents via Twitter.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Hours after Germany announced that the nerve agent Novichok was found in the system of Alexei Navalny, President Donald Trump remained silent on the matter.

The president spent a good portion of the day attacking his political opponents on Twitter, but did not take time to offer support to Navalny — Russian President Vladimir Putin's most prominent opponent. Trump also barely acknowledged the initial reports on Navalny, when it was widely suspected he'd been poisoned.

Navalny fell ill on a flight back to Moscow from Siberia in late August. His aides suspected he was poisoned. After authorities initially barred Navalny from leaving, he was permitted to go to Germany for further treatment. The anticorruption campaigner is in intensive care in a Berlin hospital.

A number of Putin's critics have been poisoned or harmed in other ways, sometimes fatally, and Navalny appears to be the latest victim.

The only statement on Wednesday from the Trump administration regarding Navalny came from the spokesperson for the National Security Council, who said the United States "will work with allies and the international community to hold those in Russia accountable."

It's unusual for a US president to offer no public remarks on an incident of this magnitude. Though Moscow denies any involvement, Navalny's poisoning is certain to increase tensions between the Kremlin and the West. 

Michael McFaul, the former US ambassador to Russia, called on Trump to condemn the "horrific assassination attempt."

John Bolton, Trump's former national security adviser, also urged the president to press Putin for an explanation. 

"It's confirmed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was poisoned with Novichok -- the same family of nerve agent used in the 2018 attack on the Skripals in UK. We need an urgent statement from Pres. Trump demanding a full explanation from the Russians," Bolton said in a tweet on Wednesday.

Other world leaders swiftly and forcefully censured Russia and demanded answers. 

"It's outrageous that a chemical weapon was used against Alexey Navalny," British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted on Wednesday. "We have seen first-hand the deadly consequences of Novichok in the UK. The Russian government must now explain what happened to Mr Navalny – we will work with international partners to ensure justice is done."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was also adamant that Moscow explain itself.

"This is disturbing information about the attempted murder through poisoning against a leading Russian opposition figure," she said. "Alexei Navalny was the victim of an attack with a chemical nerve agent of the Novichok group ... I condemn it strongly."

Putin's spokesperson said Russia would cooperate with Germany's requests. 

"In general, we confirm that we are ready and have an interest in full cooperation and exchange of data on this topic with Germany," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists, the Moscow Times reported.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had also remained mum on the matter, despite stating on August 25 that he was "deeply concerned" about preliminary reports suggesting Navalny was poisoned. 

Meanwhile, Pompeo's counterpart in France, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, in a statement said, "I want to condemn in the strongest terms the shocking and irresponsible use of such an agent."

The White House and State Department did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

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