Vastavam web: US President Donald Trump demanded an explanation from Moscow over the poisoning of a former spy in Britain as London’s deadline for answers expired, with Russia threatening retribution if it is punished for the Cold War intrigue.Moscow has slammed the accusations that it was behind the attempted murder of a double agent, defying the midnight yesterday ultimatum set by Britain to explain how a Soviet-designed nerve-agent found its way onto British streets.
British Prime Minister Theresa May, who will outline London’s response to the escalating crisis on Wednesday, has pointed the finger at Moscow, which she said was “highly likely” to be responsible.In a phone call with May yesterday, Trump said Russia must “provide unambiguous answers” to explain what is believed to be the first nerve agent attack in Europe since World War II.The Russian embassy said it had formally demanded Britain allow a joint investigation, saying “without that, there can be no sense in any statements from London”.
In the first sign of the practical implications of the growing diplomatic crisis, Russia threatened to bar all British media from working in Russia if British authorities banned the Kremlin-backed RT broadcaster.British regulator Ofcom has warned it could review RT’s licence if Russia were found to have been responsible for the attack on Skripal, who came to Britain in a 2010 spy swap.The British government believes a “Novichok” Russian nerve agent was used and on Monday May called on Moscow explain whether the attempted murder was a state-sponsored attack, or whether it had “lost control” of the substance.
She demanded Moscow disclose details of the development of the Novichok nerve agents programme to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).But addressing the OPCW, Russian ambassador Alexander Shulgin accused British officials of launching “vicious attacks” against Moscow and “fomenting hysteria”.May will gather her National Security Council today morning “to discuss the response from Russia”, and will then give a statement to MPs, her spokesman said.
The prime minister has said that her government was considering a British version of the US “Magnitsky Act”, which was adopted in 2012 to punish Russian officials accused of human rights violations.Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson attempted to rally support yesterday by calling his counterparts and vowing that if Russia was responsible, “this would be further reckless behaviour which threatens the international community and requires an international response”.NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the incident was “of great concern” amid reports that Britain was consulting NATO allies about possibly invoking its Article 5 principle of common defence.
Vil Mirzayanov, a chemist who worked on the Novichok programme and now lives in the United States, said the nerve agent’s effects were “brutal”.”These people are gone – the man and his daughter. Even if they survive they will not recover,” the 83-year-old told The Telegraph newspaper.The case has prompted comparisons with the 2006 radiation poisoning of former spy and Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko, which a British public inquiry blamed on Russia.