'Highly likely' Russia behind nerve agent attack on ex-spy: Theresa May
Published: 13 March 2018 Image credit: Reuters
UK Prime Minister Theresa May has told British parliament it is “highly likely” Russia is responsible for the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, South West England.Addressing the House of Commons, Prime Minster May said the group of nerve agents used in the attack, known as novichock, had been “previously produced” by the Soviet military during the 1970s and 1980s.
“Russia's record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations and our assessment that Russia views some defectors as legitimate targets for assassinations, the government has concluded that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the act against Sergei and Yulia Skripal,” she said.
Ms May said there were only “two plausible explanations” for what occurred in Salisbury.
“Either this was a direct act by the Russian state against our country or the Russian government lost control of its potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.”
The Russian ambassador to the UK has been summoned by British Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, to give an explanation as to how the nerve agent came to be in the UK and the how the pair were poisoned.
"My Right Honourable friend [Minister Boris Johnson] has stated to the ambassador that the Russian Federation must immediately provide full and complete disclosure of the novichock program to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and he has requested the Russian government's response by the end of tomorrow," Ms May said.
On a Russian television show, Russian Parliament Member, Andrei Lugovoy – a former KBG bodyguard suspected of playing a part in the fatal poisoning of Kremlim critic Alexander Litvinenko – said Britain was using the incident to “discredit” Russia.
“There was Rodchenkov, then there were Olympics, and now we have Skripal and after that have the World Cup. Because all the previous stories that they were trying to accuse us of like Crimea and Ukraine are losing their significance," he said.
“I do not have any doubts that certainly it is a well-planned hysteria, a prepared PR campaign which is being run according to the tried and tested scenarios.
"They have chosen a person with specific past so that no one has doubts that he is not just related to Russia but also - and they will use it for domestic audiences - is a traitor."
Skripal, 66, and his daughter, Yulia, 33, were poisoned on 4 March, and the incident has created chaos in the Wiltshire city of Salisbury, as British authorities warn of contamination threats from the nerve agent.
The pair, along with one of the first police officers on the scene, Sergeant Nick Bailey, remain in a serious but stable condition in hospital.