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Water bottle from Alexei Navalny's Russian hotel room contained Novichok traces, associates say

Navalny’s team said German investigators found Novichok traces on “the ordinary plastic water bottle” from a hotel room he was staying in last month.
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A water bottle that was found in a hotel room where the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny stayed before being poisoned contained traces of Novichok, his aides claimed Thursday.

In an Instagram post, Navalny’s team said German investigators found Novichok traces on “the ordinary plastic water bottle” from a room in the hotel in the Siberian city of Tomsk, where the politician and his film crew were staying last month as they conducted an investigation into alleged corruption.

NBC News could not independently verify the claim. A spokesperson for the German government declined to comment.

Shortly after Navalny, one of the fiercest Kremlin critics, fell ill on a flight from Tomsk on Aug. 20, his spokesperson Kira Yarmysh suggested that he may have been poisoned at the airport, where he had a cup of tea before boarding.

Navalny was taken to Germany for treatment, where the German government announced he was poisoned by Novichok, a class of several advanced chemical agents developed in the former Soviet Union beginning in the 1970s.

German officials have not explicitly stated how Navalny was poisoned.

An hour after hearing that Navalny fell ill, his team said in the Instagram post that the politician's associates who remained in Tomsk to finish the investigation called a lawyer, went up to the room where Navalny was staying and began “to record, describe and pack up everything they had found there, including hotel water bottles."

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A video attached to the Instagram post shows people walking around a hotel room, wearing latex gloves and packing items, including three plastic water bottles, into plastic bags.

“There was no particular hope of finding anything,” the post said, adding that Navalny's associates made a decision to take everything that might "be hypothetically useful in some way" and hand it over to doctors in Germany, assuming the case would not be investigated in Russia.

Water bottles in a hotel room where Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny stayed during his recent visit in the Siberian city of Tomsk, Russia.@navalny / Reuters

“And that is exactly what has happened: almost a month has passed, and Russia has yet to acknowledge Alexei was poisoned,” the politician's team said.

The Kremlin has insisted there is no definitive proof that Navalny was poisoned. Russian doctors who treated him before he was airlifted to Germany suspected he was suffering from a metabolic disease.

“Two weeks later, it was on the bottle from the Tomsk hotel room that the German laboratory found traces of Novichok on,” Navalny’s team said in the post. “And then two more laboratories that took tests from Alexei confirmed that Navalny was poisoned by it. Now we understand: this was done before he left his room to go to the airport.”

Later Thursday, one of Navalny's associates, lawyer Lubov Sobol, noted on Twitter that finding traces of Novichok on the water bottle found in his hotel room doesn't necessarily mean that Navalny was poisoned via the bottle.

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The German government announced Monday that laboratories in Sweden and France have confirmed their findings that Novichok was used to poison Navalny.

The politician’s condition has been steadily improving, German doctors have said. He posted the first photo from his hospital bed in Berlin on Tuesday, saying he is able to breathe on his own. Shortly after falling ill on the plane, he was put into an induced coma and on a ventilator.

Meanwhile, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Thursday it will provide technical assistance to Germany regarding the alleged Novichok use. The organization said in a statement that a team of its experts independently collected samples from Navalny for analysis in its laboratories, and the results will be shared with the German authorities.