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Chemical Weapons

New Novichok poisoned Russian politician Alexei Navalny

by Laura Howes
October 7, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 39

Structures of some Novichok nerve agents.
The compound used against Alexei Navalny is similar to Novichok nerve agents such as these, which are subject to the most stringent controls under the international Chemical Weapons Convention.

At the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ (OPCW) Executive Council meeting on Oct. 6, the OPCW released a report confirming that Russian politician Alexei Navalny was poisoned by a Novichok nerve agent. Such agents block messaging from nerves to muscles. The new report confirms the findings of German, French, and Swedish laboratory tests. It says that Navalny’s blood and urine contained the biomarkers of a cholinesterase inhibitor with a similar structure to the Novichok chemicals recently added to Chemical Weapons Convention’s list of chemicals under the most stringent control. However, the nerve agent identified is not included in that list, suggesting that it is a new variant. Navalny first became ill in Russia on Aug. 20 and was airlifted to Berlin a few days later. Now discharged from hospital, he told German magazine Der Spiegel that is mental abilities have returned and he is undergoing physical therapy.


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