Russia is bracing for “strangling sanctions” aimed at dealing a massive blow to President Vladimir Putin over the Navalny poisoning affair.
The EU – led by Germany – is thought to be preparing punishment against Putin’s henchmen to erode his support if Moscow refuses to allow an investigation into the latest nerve agent attack.
The bloc’s executive is holding off on immediate action for now but is expected to act as soon as Moscow indicates an independent probe will not be approved.
It follows German experts saying it was deadly Soviet-style Novichok that struck down opposition politician Alexei Navalny during a flight.
Navalny, 44, was still fighting for us his life tonight, under armed guard and in a coma in a Berlin hospital amid growing calls for more crippling sanctions to hit Putin’s inner-circle.
A former British military intelligence analyst told the Daily Mirror exclusively: “Nothing but strangling sanctions will work now.
“Putin knows he can expect little in the way of physical repercussion like military action or more diplomats being thrown out of foreign countries in reaction to the Navalny attack.
“But even more sanctions from the EU, led by Germany, are very likely and they are working slowly to erode his support. He knows there is a cut-off point and people could turn.
“This was another Novichok attack but it was above Siberia so not much can be done about it by NATO or the UN as the US may not back that and Putin can have a say in the UN.”
The EU wants to be seen to be seen not to escalate too soon but is pushing for a probe into who physically launched the Navalny attack.
A European Commission spokesman, Peter Stano, said Russia needed to carry out an independent probe and that the bloc would react based on Moscow’s next steps.
He said: “It is not normal, it is not acceptable that someone is subject of assassination attempt with a chemical agent which is military-grade and should not be freely available and circulating around in our society, or in the Russian society.”
But he admitted the 27-nation bloc has already started talks about how to react.
German is under pressure to reconsider the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will take gas from Russia to Germany.
Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the Munich Security Conference and a former ambassador to Washington, said: “If we want to send a clear message to Moscow with our partners, then economic relations must be on the agenda and that means the Nord Stream 2 project must not be left out.”
The Novichok news has firmly put the Russian leader back in the spotlight but the Kremlin rejected the accusation, claiming there were no grounds for sanctions.
Navalny, an outspoken opponent of Putin’s has specialised in high-impact investigations into official corruption in Moscow and was airlifted to Germany last month after collapsing mid-flight.
The wife of a police officer DS Nick Bailey, who almost died in the Salisbury poisonings said “actions speak louder than words”, in response to a tweet by Boris Johnson.
The PM joined world leaders in demanding answers from Moscow over the Navalny attack branding it “outrageous”, adding: “We have seen first-hand the deadly consequences of Novichok in the UK.
“The Russian government must now explain what happened to Mr Navalny – we will work with international partners to ensure justice is done.”
But Sarah Bailey wrote: “Justice would be nice. Actions speak louder than words.”
Her husband also shared the Prime Minister’s tweet, with a short message which read: “I have so much that I want to say about this tweet. But I can’t, and I won’t.”
Bailey was the first person to enter the home of Sergei Skripal after the Russian former double agent and his daughter Yulia were poisoned in Salisbury in 2018.
The Skripals also recovered, but local woman Dawn Sturgess, 44, died months after the incident, having picked up the discarded perfume bottle used by Russian agents.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow denied Russia was behind the attack.
He said: “There are no grounds to accuse the Russian state. And we are not inclined to accept any accusations in this respect.”