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German government calls Navalny recovery 'encouraging'

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This handout photo published by Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on his instagram account, shows himself, centre, and his wife Yulia, right, daughter Daria, and son Zakhar, top left, posing for a photo in a hospital in Berlin, Germany. Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has posted the picture of himself in a hospital in Germany and says he's breathing on his own. He posted on Instagram Tuesday Sept. 15, 2020: "Hi, this is Navalny. I have been missing you. I still can't do much, but yesterday I managed to breathe on my own for the entire day." (Navalny instagram via AP)

BERLIN – The German government on Wednesday welcomed news that poisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny's condition has further improved after his poisoning in Russia and confirmed that Moscow had sent a second request for judicial assistance in the case.

Navalny, who fell ill on a domestic flight in Russia on Aug. 20, posted a selfie photo Tuesday from Berlin's Charité Hospital, where he has received treatment for almost four weeks. "I still can’t do almost anything on my own, but yesterday I managed to breathe on my own for the entire day,” he wrote.

Germany has insisted that Russia answer questions about what happened to politician and anti-corruption researcher. A German military laboratory confirmed the presence in Navalny's body of Novichok, a Soviet-era nerve agent linked to a previous attempted assassination of a Kremlin enemy.

“The German government is relieved about the latest news from the Charité, according to which the health situation of Alexei Navalny has further improved," German government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer told reporters Wednesday. “That is encouraging, and the German government wishes Mr. Navalny a quick and complete recovery.”

Russia has rejected the suggestion that it was involved in Navalny's poisoning. The affair has added to preexisting friction between Berlin and Moscow over issues such as Ukraine, Syria, and alleged Russian intelligence activity on German soil.

Demmer declined to say whether German Chancellor Angela Merkel planned to meet Navalny any time soon. But she confirmed that, despite speaking out prominently on the Navalny case, she has not so far discussed it directly with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Separately, Germany's Justice Ministry said it has received a second request from Russia for judicial assistance in investigating the case.

“On September 14, the Russian prosecutor general approached the Federal Office of Justice with a second judicial assistance request,” ministry spokesman Marius Leber said. It “is currently being examined.”

Moscow has accused Germany of failing to provide information necessary for Russian authorities to launch a full criminal investigation - a charge Berlin rejects.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned in a Tuesday phone call with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas against politicizing the Navalny case, the Russia's Foreign Ministry said.

Asked about possible measures Germany or the European Union might take over the poisoning, German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Adebahr said Wednesday: “On the issue of sanctions, the German government remains of the view that Russia should explain how a chemical nerve agent came to be used on its territory.”