Britain gives 24-hour deadline to Russia over ex-spy poisoning case


LONDON: The British Prime Minister Theresa May has given Russia till Tuesday midnight to explain why was a Russian nerve agent used to poison ex-Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, United Kingdom.

In a speech given to parliament on Monday, she said it was “highly likely” that Moscow was responsible for the poisoning.

The former double agent and GRU officer Sergei Skripal, who moved to the UK after a spy-swap with Russia in 2010, was arrested by Russian intelligence in 2004 for leaking the identities of Russian agents to the British intelligence agency MI6.

He was poisoned along with his daughter on March 4 and is currently in critical condition.

“Either this was a direct action 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,” said May.

Speaking to the Parliament, she said that the nerve agent used in the poisoning has been identified as ‘Novichok’ – a lethal Russian chemical weapon. UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd will chair an emergency Cobra meeting on the unfolding crisis.

The UK would conclude there has been an “unlawful” use of force if Moscow does not provide “credible response” by Tuesday night. The attack was “an indiscriminate and reckless act against the UK, putting the lives of innocent civilians at risk” and the UK must “stand ready to take much more extensive measures,” which would be announced on Wednesday.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson spoke with US State of State Rex Tillerson on phone to discuss the evolving situation.

“We agree that those responsible – both those who committed the crime and those who ordered it – must face appropriately serious consequences. We stand in solidarity with our allies in the United Kingdom and will continue to coordinate closely our responses,” said Tillerson.

He condemned Russia for the “really egregious act” and being “an irresponsible force of instability in the world.”

The French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with PM May and “agreed that it would be important to continue to act in concert with allies” against “the wide pattern of aggressive Russian behaviour.”

Russia has denied all allegations and the Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called PM May’s statement to the British parliament as “a circus show.”

“The conclusion is obvious – it’s another information and political campaign based on provocation,” she added.

“Get to the bottom of things there, then we’ll discuss this,” the BBC was told by Vladimir Putin in response to the accusations.