Published: Sun, March 18, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

'Overwhelmingly likely' Putin ordered nerve agent attack on United Kingdom soil

'Overwhelmingly likely' Putin ordered nerve agent attack on United Kingdom soil

Russian Federation is yet to formally retaliate to Prime Minister Theresa May's expulsion of the diplomats.

"Due to the unregulated status of the British Council in Russian Federation, its activity is halted", the foreign ministry said.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said on Friday (March 16) that it was "overwhelmingly likely" that Russian President Vladimir Putin himself made the decision to use a military-grade nerve toxin to strike down a former Russian agent on English soil.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Saturday that 23 British diplomats are "persona non grata" and must leave the country within a week.

Britain's foreign secretary accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of personally ordering a nerve agent attack in Britain, ratcheting up tensions Friday in an increasingly global showdown over alleged Russian meddling overseas.

Russia followed through with its move to expel 23 British diplomats on Saturday in response to an equivalent expulsion of Russian diplomats by the United Kingdom over the poisoning of a double agent.

Alexander Shulgin, Russia's envoy at the Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said in televised remarks that Britain and the United States both had the nerve agent used.

Geopolitical tensions are mounting since the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury earlier this month, in what Western powers see as the latest sign of increasingly aggressive Russian meddling overseas.

The Russian foreign ministry said that Britain "is warned that in case of further unfriendly actions against Russia, the Russian side reserves the right to take further retaliatory measures".

British police are trying to reconstruct the movements of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the crucial hours before they were found unconscious from nerve agent poisoning.

Skripal, who was convicted in Russian Federation of selling state secrets to Britain, and his daughter Yulia were poisoned in the southern city of Salisbury. They remain in critical condition in hospital.

Russia expels 23 British diplomats as crisis over nerve toxin attack deepens
British police said Friday that he died from compression to the neck and opened a murder investigation. Russian officials quickly dismissed the accusations and vowed the nation wold take reciprocal actions.

A plaque at the entrance of the British Council office in Moscow.

The Kremlin, however, has repeatedly denied any involvement and dismissed Johnson's accusation as "shocking and inexcusable".

Mr Johnson said: "We have nothing against the Russians themselves".

Speaking on Russia-24 television, Zakharova said Britain is taking a tough line against Russia because of frustration at recent advances of Russian-backed Syrian government forces against Western-backed rebels.

Earlier on March 14, 2018, Germany's Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said: "We condemn this attack with a banned chemical weapon in the strongest possible terms".

London's Metropolitan Police said on Friday they believed the former associate of Berezovsky, Nikolai Glushkov, had been strangled to death and counter-terrorism officers would continue to lead the investigation.

"The investigation of these criminal cases will be held according to the requirements of the Russian legislation and the rules of global law", Russian Investigative Committee spokesperson Svetlana Petrenko said.

Meanwhile the Investigative Committee, which reports to Putin, opened a probe into the "attempted premeditated murder" of Skripal's daughter, a Russian national, which it said had been "carried out in a way that was unsafe to the public".

Russia's Investigative Committee said it had launched its own criminal proceedings in connection with the "attempted murder of a Russian citizen, Yulia Skripal" in Salisbury and the "murder" of Glushkov in London.

Former Russian military intelligence colonel Sergei Skripal attends a hearing at the Moscow District Military Court in Moscow on August 9, 2006.

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