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By Sylvia Cunningham and William Glucroft
German federal leaders on Wednesday condemned the attack on a vocal critic of Vladimir Putin after citing “unequivocal proof” that he was poisoned with a nerve agent from the chemical group “Novichok.”
It’s the same agent that was used to poison a former Russian spy and his daughter in England two and a half years ago.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and five of her ministers urged an explanation from the Russian government. They said they will inform their EU and NATO partners and discuss how they will react.
The Russian opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, who was transferred to Berlin for care on Aug. 22, fell ill on Aug. 20 on a flight from Siberia to Moscow.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk is in Germany this week, although details of his visit remain sketchy.
Musk told Twitter followers he planned to visit his Gigafactory, which is under construction near Berlin, and CureVac, a German biotech firm working on a COVID-19 vaccine.
Musk, who has downplayed the threat of the pandemic, said he’s interested in helping CureVac accelerate its vaccine development.
A spokesman for the company told KCRW Berlin that its board met with Musk in Tübingen on Tuesday for an “information exchange only,” and no formal agreements or plans resulted.
CureVac, which recently went public in the U.S., has a deal with the EU to deliver as many as 405 million doses of the potential vaccine if proven safe and effective.
The Berlin public prosecutor’s office said Wednesday the use of the word “Covidiot” is protected by Germany’s constitution.
The term, which describes coronavirus deniers and anti-mask protesters, was tweeted last month by Saskia Esken, co-chair of the Social Democratic Party.
Esken wrote that participants of a Berlin demonstration against masks and other COVID-19 measures were “irresponsible” and endangering people’s health. She also hashtagged the German version of the word, “Covidioten.”
Hundreds of complaints were filed against the SPD leader as a result, but prosecutors said she’s in the clear as she has a legal right to express her opinion.
This news is brought to you in cooperation with Berliner Rundfunk.