Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) has urged the Russian government to help clarify the poisoning attack on oppositionist Alexej Navalny - and for the first time combined this with a threat that the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project may be stopped.
"I don't hope the Russians force us to change our stance on Nord Stream 2," he told
Bild on Sunday
"We have high expectations of the Russian government that they will solve this serious crime," said the SPD politician.
Maas sees "a lot of evidence" that the Russian state is behind the poison attack: "The deadly chemical weapon with which Navalny was poisoned was in the past in the possession of Russian authorities. Novichok is only accessible to a very small group of people. And the poison has already been used by government agencies to attack ex-agent Sergei Skripal. "
Should Russia not take part in the investigation of the crime, Maas said, "that would be a further indication of the state's involvement in the crime."
The minister said: "If it does not go beyond veils and smoke candles, we must assume that Russia has something to hide."
Maas added: "If she has nothing to do with the attack, it is in her own interest to prove it with facts."
The German Foreign Minister only wants to give the government in Moscow a few more days.
"If there are no contributions to the investigation on the Russian side in the next few days, we will have to discuss an answer with our partners."
The crime against Navalny is such a serious violation of the international chemical weapons agreement that it cannot go without a noticeable reaction.
"When we think about sanctions, they should work as precisely as possible."
Navalny has been treated at the Berlin Charité since August 22, after he collapsed two days earlier during a flight in Russia.
The federal government announced on Wednesday that Navalny had been poisoned "beyond any doubt" with a chemical nerve agent from the so-called Novichok group.
The German government is already discussing possible sanctions against Russia with its EU partners.
She had previously shared her findings with the NATO allies.
According to this, Navalny, who has been treated in the Berlin Charité since August 22, was "undoubtedly" poisoned with a chemical nerve agent from the so-called Novitschok group.
According to Maas, the 44-year-old is still in a coma.
So far, the federal government had avoided linking the Navalny case with the German-Russian gas project.
Maas also admitted that stopping the almost completed pipeline would also harm German and European companies: "Anyone who demands this must be aware of the consequences. Nord Stream 2 has more than 100 companies from twelve European countries involved, such as the Half of them from Germany. "
Narrowing the debate to Nord Stream 2 would not do the case justice, he warned.