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Russia Denies Poisoning Opposition Leader 

 The Russian government has dismissed accusations that it was involved in an alleged attack on opposition leader Alexi Navalny after doctors said tests showed he was poisoned. Navalny is in a coma in a German hospital after becoming sick Thursday while on a flight to Moscow from Siberia. He was transferred last Saturday to the Charité hospital in Berlin, where doctors said Monday the tests revealed signs of “cholinesterase inhibitors” in his system. 
 
Cholinesterase is an enzyme that is critical for the normal function of the nervous system in humans, other vertebrates, and in insects. Inhibitors block a chemical, acetylcholine, that transmits signals between nerve cells. Cholinesterase inhibitors are compounds used to alleviate symptoms of dementia, but they also have been found in chemical weapons and pesticides used to kill bugs.FILE – Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny, center, his wife Yulia, right of him, and opposition activist Lyubov Sobol, second from left, take part in a march in memory of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov in Moscow, Feb. 29, 2020.Allies of Navalny contend the Kremlin is responsible for his illness, and some are calling for an investigation into whether President Vladimir Putin was involved. 
 
“These accusations absolutely cannot be true and are rather an empty noise,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Tuesday in Moscow. Peskov said there is no evidence to warrant an investigation into Navalny’s illness and suggested there could have been various causes.  “If a substance is found, and if it is determined that it is poisoning, then there will be a reason for an investigation,” Peskov said. Navalny’s spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, tweeted Tuesday it is not surprising the Russian government is not willing to launch a probe at this time. “It was obvious that the crime would not be properly investigated, and a culprit found. However, we all know perfectly well who that is,” Yarmysh wrote. Experts have said it is premature to conclude how the agent may have entered Navalny’s system.FILE – A police officer stands guard as a scaffolder works at the site of former spy Sergei Skripal’s house, in Salisbury, Britain, Jan. 9, 2019.Some experts have noted that Novichok, the Soviet-era nerve agent used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain more than two years ago, was a cholinesterase inhibitor. Navalny is a politician and corruption investigator who is one of Putin’s harshest critics. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other European officials have requested that Russia conduct a full investigation. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun was expected to raise the issue during a visit to Russia that began Tuesday. 

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