Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was poisoned with a military nerve agent from the Novichok group. This conclusion was reached by a group of experts from the special laboratory of the Bundeswehr. German Chancellor Merkel has called Moscow to account, and the EU is talking about sanctions. The European press has come out in support of the West's line, while the Russian official media are making their own specific arguments.
Merkel's tough stance
Der Standard believes that Merkel has changed her strategy towards Russia:
вЂњBerlin's message to Moscow was delivered with hitherto unprecedented clarity and firmness вЂ” this tone had nothing to do with a friendly greeting. To put it in a non-diplomatic language: Merkel's patience has run out. Or she's fed up with Moscow's assurances and her role as the Lamb of God in the case of Navalny. ... Merkel ... no longer intends to limit herself to comparatively metered criticism вЂ” and now prefers harsher rhetoric. ... At the same time, we are not talking about a duel between her and Putin, but ... about a clash of values вЂ” and for this Merkel intends to mobilize the EU. ... Containment of Putin вЂ” or rather an attempt at containment вЂ” may be Merkel's latest push for Germany's presidency of the EU Council.вЂќ
Everything's under control?
This poisoning is no longer an internal affair of Russia, writes El Pais:
вЂњRussia is a nuclear power, and the world has a right to know if its poisonous and radioactive arsenals are properly and under proper control, or are instead being used by a gang of resentful and revenge-seeking fanatics for criminal purposes, which provokes uncertainty around the world. In Germany, even the most moderate politicians demanded that Russia be held accountable, although they pointed to the need to continue dialogue with Moscow. ... Europe needs Russia вЂ” but not at the cost of fear of being forced to silently watch the poisoning of Putin's opponents.вЂќ
Russia can no longer be considered a partner
According to the Suddeutsche Zeitung, the German government must fundamentally rethink its relationship with Russia:
вЂњBy offering medical assistance to Navalny, the FRG government assumed political responsibility. More than an unambiguous reaction to information about the nature of his poisoning shows that the government understands this. For Germany and the European Union, this means another, this time a very serious turning point in their attitude towards Russia. Criticism, even sharp, is no longer enough here. As well as new, insignificant sanctions. Anyone who is convinced of the criminal nature of Putin's system will no longer look there for what is impossible to find, namely, partnership.вЂќ
Even deaths won't change Merkel's position
Rzeczpospolita accuses the German authorities of double standards:
вЂњWhen asked whether the Kremlin should not be punished by abandoning the Nord Stream 2 project, as many representatives of the CDU, the Merkel party, have long been saying, the chancellor replied that the case of Navalny should be considered separately. In other words: nothing will force us to refuse active cooperation with the Kremlin вЂ” nothing, not even the fact that Russian oppositionists are dying in our arms.вЂќ