World News

France's Le Drian urges transparency from Russia over Navalny

FILE PHOTO: French European and Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, wearing protective face masks, leave following the last weekly cabinet meeting before summer vacation break, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, July 29, 2020. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

PARIS (Reuters) - France’s foreign minister said on Thursday he was bemused by Russia not taking a transparent approach over the possible poisoning of opponent Alexei Navalny, and said European Union foreign ministers would discuss the matter this week.

Navalny is in a medically induced coma in a Berlin hospital where he was airlifted on Saturday after collapsing during a flight in Russia. The German clinic said its initial medical examination pointed to poisoning, though Russian doctors who had treated him in a Siberian hospital have contradicted that diagnosis.

“I don’t understand why the Russians aren’t playing the transparency game because it is in their interest,” Le Drian told RTL radio.

“It’s a crime. Russia needs to take the initiative to carry out a transparent investigation, and when the guilty are found to use it a lesson (for others), it’s not the first time there is a poisoning.”

The Kremlin said on Wednesday it hoped Navalny’s illness would not damage Russia’s ties with the West and that it was keen to find out why he fell ill despite declining to open an investigation into the incident.

European Union foreign ministers are meeting on Thursday and Friday in Berlin. Le Drian said the Navalny case would discussed.

When asked if there was a way to force Moscow to carry out an investigation, Le Drian said:

“We have some sanctions already in place so I think if they (Russians) were to take the initiative of transparency it would be to their credit,” he said.

Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Toby Chopra and Alison Williams