British Prime Minister Theresa May finds it “very likely that Russia is responsible” for the attempted murder of the former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Youlia on March 4th. Russia rejected the accusation, saying it was a “provocation”.
In a statement to Parliament, Ms May argued that both victims had been poisoned by a Russian-made military-type toxic substance. Two explanations are therefore possible, concludes the prime minister: either Russia is responsible or it allowed the substance in question to be in the hands of the assassins.
The head of the British government summoned Moscow to explain by Tuesday at the end of the day to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
She also assured that her country was ready to take retaliatory action against Russia.
In the absence of a credible response, we conclude that this action constitutes an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom. And I will come back to the House and present the range of measures we will take in retaliation.
Theresa May, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Ms May recalled that the poisoning was “in a well-established context of attacks by the Russian state”. She gave as examples “the illegal annexation of Crimea”, “repeated” violations of the airspace of several European countries, campaigns of cyber espionage, as well as “the barbarian attack” against Alexander Litvinenko, former secret agent Russian poisoned with polonium 210 and died in London in 2006.
This is the first time Ms. May has targeted Russia in this way, although her foreign minister, Boris Johnson, pointed to Moscow last week.
Russia has described these remarks as a “provocative political campaign”.
It’s a circus act in front of the British Parliament.
Maria Zakharova, Spokesperson of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The British government is playing a “very dangerous game,” which “shifts the investigation to a useless political track, and carries the risk of serious long-term consequences for [relations]” between the two countries, lamented the Russian Embassy in London.
The Kremlin said earlier in the day that the poisoning of Skripal did not concern the Russian authorities.
“The Russian national you mentioned was working for the British intelligence services. The incident took place in the United Kingdom. This does not concern the Russian government, “said Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Vladimir Putin, before Theresa May’s speech.
President Putin, for his part, had advised London to wait for the results of the investigation before drawing any conclusions. Asked by the BBC about a possible responsibility of Russia in this case, Mr. Putin responded, according to the Russian press agencies: “Clear things up on your side and, after, we will talk about it with you. ”
Russian security general Vladimir Dzhabarov said Skripal poisoning may have been committed by the UK or a third country in order to “blame and blacken Russia”.
“A shame,” says Washington
The White House also expressed on Monday its indignation over the “irresponsible” poisoning of Sergei Skripal, affirming his solidarity with London.
“The use of a mortal innervating agent against a British citizen on British soil is a shame,” said Sarah Sanders, spokesman for Donald Trump.
“We stand alongside our ally and we support them fully,” continued Sanders.
However, it was out of the question for her to comment on Moscow’s possible responsibility in this case.
For its part, NATO believes that the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal is a “very worrying incident,” said Secretary-General of the Atlantic Alliance Jens Stoltenberg on Monday.
“The United Kingdom is a very valuable ally and this incident is very worrying for NATO,” Stoltenberg said in a statement that the Atlantic military organization is “in touch with the British authorities on the subject”.
Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Youlia, 33, were found unconscious on a public bench in Salisbury late afternoon on 4 March. They had eaten together at an Italian Zizzi restaurant and had a drink at The Mill, located nearby.
They are now in the intensive care unit of a British hospital in a “critical but stable” state; a Salisbury police officer, who was also a victim of the innervating agent after intervening with them, is “conscious”, although his condition is considered “serious but stable”.
A former Russian intelligence colonel, GRU, Sergei Skripal, was accused of “high treason” for selling information from Britain in 1995. During his trial, he admitted to revealing the identity of dozens of Russian secret agents operating in Europe, in exchange for $100,000.
Mr. Skripal was sentenced in 2006 to 13 years in prison, but he did not have to serve his full sentence; in 2010, he was released during a prisoner exchange between Moscow on the one hand, and London and Washington on the other. He had settled in England in the wake.
Britain’s Interior Minister Amber Rudd revealed on Saturday that more than 250 police officers from the British antiterrorist unit were working on the case. More than 240 witnesses were identified and about 200 pieces of evidence were collected, including a “huge amount” of CCTV footage.