What Western officials call a botched attempt to kill a leading opposition figure has triggered a new downward spiral in Russia’s ties with Europe, and above all with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose patience had already been tested by President Vladimir Putin. Her government was grappling with how to respond to a 2015 cyberattack on the Bundestag and a 2019 killing in Berlin, both of which were ordered by Russian state actors, German prosecutors say.

Even against the Kremlin’s track record of malfeasance, the brazen targeting of a chief critic would be devastating to Putin’s already low standing in the West, a European diplomat said…

For Merkel, a self-described Russophile who grew up in East Germany, a deep well of patience had been emptied. Her message to the Kremlin was blunt by her standards.

“It’s clear that Alexey Navalny is the victim of a crime,” Merkel told reporters gathered hours later. “The intent was to silence him.”