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Germany to discuss response to Navalny poisoning after OPCW findings

BERLIN (Reuters) - The German government said on Tuesday it would discuss with partners what action to take after findings from the global chemicals watchdog confirmed that Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny was poisoned with a nerve agent in the Novichok family.

Navalny was airlifted to Berlin for treatment after falling ill on a flight in Siberia on Aug. 20 and Germany and other Western governments have called on Russia to help in investigations into what happened.

Navalny has been discharged from hospital and plans to return to Russia. Moscow has denied accusations by Navalny that it was involved in the poisoning.

“The next steps will be discussed in the Executive Council of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and with the EU partners,” German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement.

“Any use of chemical weapons is a serious matter and cannot remain without consequences,” he added.

Options include targeted asset freezes or travel bans on Russian individuals deemed to be involved in the Navalny case, economic sanctions and halting the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that is being built to carry gas directly from Russia to Germany.

Earlier, the OPCW said blood samples taken from Navalny confirmed the presence of a nerve agent in the banned Novichok family.

“This again confirms the unequivocal proof that Alexei Navalny was the victim of an attack with a chemical nerve agent of the Novichok group,” said Seibert in the statement.

Novichok, a Soviet-era nerve toxin, was also used to poison a former Russian spy in England in 2018.

Reporting by Thomas Seythal and Madeline Chambers; Editing by Giles Elgood