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President Niinistö calls for "clarity" over Navalny poisoning

Toxicology tests on the Russian opposition leader suggest he was exposed to a nerve agent, according to the German government.

German army personnel return to their ambulance after transporting transport Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny to Berlin's Charite hospital. Image: Odd Andersen / AFP

Finland's President Sauli Niinistö says it is 'shocking' that a chemical weapon had apparently been used against Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

"The news coming from the German government today on Alexei Navalny is worrying," Niinistö wrote in a statement published on Wednesday. "The use of a chemical weapon is shocking. It is important for the whole international community to get as full a clarity as possible of what happened."

Navalny became ill during a flight from Siberia to Moscow last month, and was airlifted to a hospital in Berlin for treatment after Niinistö had "a long phone call" with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Navalny's office later thanked the Finnish President for his role in securing the opposition leader's release.

On Wednesday the German government released a statement saying that tests revealed that Navalny had been exposed to the nerve agent Novichok, which had been used in the UK in 2018 in an attack the UK government blames on Russia.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on the Russian government to answer "serious questions" in relation to the incident, saying it was an assassination attempt aimed at silencing Navalny.

"Someone tried to silence him and in the name of the whole German government I condemn that in the strongest terms," Merkel said.

A spokesperson for the hospital treating Navalny, who has fallen into a coma, said his condition has improved but is still serious and that long-term damage cannot be ruled out.

Haavisto: Use of nerve agent "reprehensible"

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Greens) told Yle he was very concerned to learn that Novichok had been used to poison Navalny, and said he wanted to see the perpetrators held accountable.

"In the case of the Novichok nerve agent, it is a question of a chemical weapon and its use in all circumstances and by anyone is reprehensible," Haavisto said, adding that attention must now turn to the circumstances in which the nerve agent was used.

"The poisoning has taken place on Russian soil. Russia's co-operation is needed to find out how Navalny was exposed to the poison," Haavisto said. "The EU must also form its position together, but because the news is very recent, there are no joint decisions yet."