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Russia ‘highly likely’ behind poisoning

  • Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May speaks in the House of Commons in London, Monday, March 12, 2018. British Prime Minister Theresa May says her government has concluded it is "highly likely" Russia is responsible for the poisoning of an ex-spy and his daughter. May told British lawmakers on Monday that Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were exposed to a nerve agent known as Novichok (Novice), a weapon developed in the Soviet Union in the end of the Cold War. (PA via AP) PA

  • Military personnel are prepared before working to remove cars from a car park in Salisbury, England, as police and members of the armed forces probe the suspected nerve agent attack on Russian double agent spy Sergei Skripal, Sunday March 11, 2018. British government security ministers held an emergency meeting Saturday to discuss the poisoning of former spy Skripal and his daughter Yulia, as investigations continue. (Andrew Matthews/PA via AP) Andrew Matthews

  • Military personnel outside Bourne Hill police station in Salisbury, England, as police and members of the armed forces probe the suspected nerve agent attack on Russian double agent spy Sergei Skripal, Sunday March 11, 2018. British government security ministers held an emergency meeting Saturday to discuss the poisoning of former spy Skripal and his daughter Yulia, as police backed by soldiers continued to search the English town where he was attacked with a nerve agent. (Andrew... Andrew Matthews

  • Military personnel in College Street Car Park in Salisbury, Sunday March 11, 2018, as police and members of the armed forces probe the suspected nerve agent attack on Russian double agent Sergei Skripal, which took place on Sunday March 4. British health authorities said Sunday that small traces of contamination have been found in a restaurant and a pub in the English city of Salisbury, after a Russian ex-spy and his daughter were poisoned with a nerve agent. (Andrew Matthews/PA via AP) Andrew Matthews

  • A police tent covers the the spot where former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found critically ill following exposure to a "nerve agent substance" in Salisbury, England, Monday, March 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein) Frank Augstein

  • Police officers guard the entrance of the pub 'The Mill', near to the area where former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter were found after being exposed to a "nerve agent substance" in Salisbury, England, Monday, March 12, 2018. A senior British lawmaker says the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter is "looking awfully like it was state-sponsored attempted murder." (AP Photo/Frank Augstein) Frank Augstein

  • A police tent covers the area where former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter were found after being exposed to a "nerve agent substance" in Salisbury, England, Monday, March 12, 2018. A senior British lawmaker says the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter is "looking awfully like it was state-sponsored attempted murder." (AP Photo/Frank Augstein) Frank Augstein

  • A woman walks past 'Zizi' restaurant near the area where former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter were found after being exposed to a "nerve agent substance" in Salisbury, England, Monday, March 12, 2018. A senior British lawmaker says the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter is "looking awfully like it was state-sponsored attempted murder." (AP Photo/Frank Augstein) Frank Augstein

  • Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street after Prime Minister Theresa May summoned people to a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) to be briefed on the latest intelligence on the nerve agent poisoning attack on Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, in London Monday March 12, 2018. Prime Minister Theresa May updated lawmakers on Monday on the nerve-agent poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, England. (Stefan... Stefan Rousseau

  • Military forces work on a van in Winterslow, England, Monday, March 12, 2018, as investigations continue into the nerve-agent poisoning of Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, in Salisbury, England, on Sunday March 4,2018. British Prime Minister Theresa May is set to update lawmakers Monday on the nerve-agent poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein) Frank Augstein



Associated Press
Monday, March 12, 2018

Russia is “highly likely” to blame for poisoning a former spy and his daughter with a military-grade nerve agent, British Prime Minister Theresa May said Monday, demanding that Moscow give a compelling explanation or face “extensive” retaliation.

May told lawmakers in a strongly worded statement that without a credible response from Russia by the end of Tuesday, Britain would consider the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter in a quiet English city “an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom.”

“There can be no question of business as usual with Russia,” she said, without saying what measures Britain might take.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova dismissed May’s allegations as a “circus show in in the British Parliament.”

Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia, remain in critical condition after being found unconscious March 4 in Salisbury. A police detective who came in contact with them is in serious but stable condition.

May said British scientists have determined that Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with Novichok, a class of nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union near the end of the Cold War.

She said it was “highly likely” the substance came from Russia, and there were two possible explanations.

“Either this was a direct act by the Russian state against our country, or the Russian government lost control of this potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others,” she said.

May said Britain had given the Russian ambassador in London a deadline of Tuesday to explain which version is true. She said Russia must also “provide full and complete disclosure” of its Novichok program to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the oversight body for the international chemical weapons convention.

May spoke in the House of Commons after she chaired a National Security Council meeting to hear the latest evidence in the case. She has been under mounting pressure to hit Russia with sanctions, diplomatic expulsions and other measures in response to the poisoning, the latest in a string of mysterious mishaps to befall Russians in Britain in recent years.

May said Britain would consider tough action if Russia’s explanation is inadequate, though she didn’t give details.

She said Britain would be prepared to take “much more extensive measures” than the expulsions and limited sanctions imposed after the death of former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned by drinking tea laced with radioactive polonium in London in 2006.

“We will not tolerate such a brazen attempt to murder innocent civilians on our soil,” May added.

The White House said the use of the nerve agent “is an outrage” but wasn’t ready to say that Russia was responsible.

Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the poisoning “reckless, indiscriminate and irresponsible,” adding that the U.S. stands by its ally.

British opposition lawmakers are urging the adoption of a version of the United States’ Magnitsky Act, a law allowing authorities to ban or seize the assets of individuals guilty of human rights abuses. It is named for Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer who died in a Russian prison after exposing a $230 million fraud involving organized crime and a Russian government official in 2008.

Critics of the British government say the U.K.’s response to Russian wrongdoing has been muted because London’s property market and financial sector are magnets for billions in Russian money.