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German man helped Russia acquire chemicals for weapons, prosectors say

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By Reuters

BERLIN – Germany’s federal public prosecutor said on Tuesday it has filed charges against a German national for helping a Russian intelligence agency acquire chemicals intended for the production of weapons of mass destruction.

It said the suspect, identified as Alexander S., managed a trade company in the eastern state of Saxony that since 2017 exported chemicals worth 1 million euros ($1.13 million) to a front company operated by Russian intelligence agents.

The suspect, who was arrested in May last year, knew all along he had exported dual-use chemicals needed in both civilian and military productions and failed to seek a special export permit as required by federal law, the Public Prosecutor General (GBA) said in a statement.

“The Russian company was part of a network run by a Russian secret service agency conspiring to hide the military purpose of the goods by disguising as a civilian entity,” the GBA said in a statement.

The accusations relating to a Russian chemical weapons programme coincide with a crisis in Europe after Russia prepared to move troops into eastern Ukraine and built up its forces elsewhere along Ukraine’s borders.

Russia’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Previously, Russia has dismissed as baseless accusations that it possesses chemical weapons, saying it destroyed them long ago in line with the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Germany says Russia used nerve agent Novichok to poison Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. The same poison was used on Russian spy Sergei Skripal, Britain and the United States say.

The prosecutors did not say if the suspect had rejected the accusations. They did not say when his trial at the Higher Regional Court in Dresden will start.

The suspect is also accused of exporting electronic equipment worth 21,000 euros between Sept. 2019 and Nov. 2020 to an institute in Russia tasked with developing and manufacturing nuclear weapons.

The GBA did not name the institute, which it said has been under EU sanctions since 2014 after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine.

($1 = 0.8827 euros)