France has put off next week’s planned visit to Russia by its Foreign Affairs and Armed Forces Ministers in the wake of the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, according to Reuters. European countries are calling on Russia to provide answers to Germany’s findings that Navalny was poisoned. He was flown to Germany for treatment after falling ill in Siberia last month.
German officials have since claimed he was poisoned with the Novichok nerve agent. Russia insists it saw no evidence that Navalny was poisoned.
Both France’s Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves le Drian and Minister of Armed Forces Florence Parly were to visit Moscow as part of President Emmanuel Macron’s efforts to reduce distrust between Russia and the West and to enlist Russian help in tackling the world’s most demanding crises.
French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnès von der Mühll noted that the official visit to Russia had been postponed after an exchange with Russian authorities. An unnamed French diplomatic source cited by France 24 claims that Macron’s planned visit to Moscow, agreed to in the summer, is now under threat.
A Russia expert at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI), Tatiana Kastouéva-Jean, noting that Novichok is a State-manufactured military weapon, pointed out that France cannot fail to react to the incident. Macron, she suggested, is caught between a desire to resume talks with Moscow despite everything and his desire to be a leader in Europe. However, she said, dialogue would continue on issues of common interest such as the conflict in Libya and the nuclear crisis in Iran.
While Germany is under pressure to scrap the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project over the incident, France has no similar projects with Russia having cancelled the sale of two Mistral warships over the crisis in Ukraine.