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GENEVA - U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has condemned the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, allegedly by Russian agents, and is calling for a thorough, impartial investigation.
Bachelet welcomes the news that Navalny has emerged from an induced coma in a Berlin hospital. The Russian opposition figure was transferred there several days after falling ill on a flight from Siberia, following a diplomatic spat between Russia and Germany.
Bachelet's spokesman, Rupert Colville says the High Commissioner has no doubt that Russian agents poisoned Navalny with a deadly Soviet-era nerve agent.
"The completely unequivocal affirmation by the German authorities and German medical specialists that this was Novichok is pretty extraordinary....There was a very serious crime committed on Russian soil. It appears to be of no doubt that it was committed. There appears to be no doubt that this exotic and highly deadly substance, Novichok was used and clearly there must be a proper investigation," he said.
Colville noted Russia has been implicated in numerous cases of poisoning, or other forms of targeted assassination of Russian citizens either within Russia itself or on foreign soil over the past two decades.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has always denied his country's involvement in any of these crimes. Colville said Bachelet calls these acts profoundly disturbing, hard to explain or justify.
"The High Commissioner notes that nerve agents and radioactive isotopes such as Novichok and Polonium-210 are sophisticated substances that are extremely hard to source. These are not materials that you can buy in a pharmacy or a pawn shop or a hardware store," he said.
Bachelet noted Navalny has been an annoyance for the Russian government for a long time. Prior to his reported poisoning, she said he was repeatedly harassed, arrested and assaulted either by the authorities or by unidentified assailants.
She said it is not good enough for the government to simply deny that Navalny was poisoned. She said a very serious crime was committed on Russian soil and it is up to the authorities to fully investigate and punish whoever was responsible.