German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny during his hospital treatment for poisoning, a sign of how seriously the case is being taken in Berlin.
“I’m very grateful to Chancellor Merkel for visiting me in the hospital,” Navalny said on Twitter. “The meeting happened. It’s not worth calling it ‘secret.’ More a private meeting and conversation with the family.”
German government spokesman Steffen Seibert confirmed that there was a “personal meeting” between the chancellor and Navalny last week. Navalny’s spokeswoman didn’t immediately
respond to a request for comment on the visit.
The meeting between Merkel and the Vladimir Putin critic, who was treated at
a Berlin hospital, underscores just how important the Navalny case is for the German chancellor. The issue has threatened already-tense relations between the two countries.
Merkel has demanded the Kremlin investigate the attack and is discussing a response with European and Nato allies. In the process, she has backed away from her support for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which would bring Russian gas straight to Germany.
Relations with Russia have been strained over issues such as the war in eastern Ukraine, a cyber-attack on German
parliament and the murder
of a Chechen national in a Berlin park.
Navalny, 44, was discharged last week from the Charite hospital in downtown Berlin with doctors saying that he may make a full recovery. He plans to stay in Germany for further treatment before returning to Russia.
He had initially been hospitalised in the Siberian city
of Omsk, where his domestic Russian flight made an emergency landing after he fell
violently ill. The Kremlin has rejected allegations it had any role in his illness and accused German authorities of failing to cooperate.
Laboratories in Sweden and France have confirmed that Navalny was poisoned with Novichok.