British PM May says Moscow behind murderous bid
LONDON (TIP): British Prime Minister Theresa May, on March 14, held Russia responsible for the nerve agent attack against a former Russian spy and his daughter as she expelled 23 Russian diplomats and suspended high-level bilateral contact.
Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were found collapsed after being poisoned last week. Both remain in a serious condition along with a police officer who came in contact with the same substance.
Russia denies being involved in the attempted murder of the former spy and his daughter. “The Russian state was culpable of the attempted murder” of spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, May told lawmakers. She said Britain will suspend high-level bilateral contact with Russia and revoke an invitation to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to visit the UK.
The Prime Minister announced that Britain will expel 23 Russian diplomats, saying they have one week to leave the UK. She identified those diplomats as “undeclared intelligence officers”, BBC reported.
Moscow, which had been given an ultimatum to provide a “credible response” over how a Russian-made nerve agent came to be used on British soil, had warned of “an equal and opposite reaction” against any UK reprisals.
The reprisals follow days of diplomacy since May first informed Parliament that there was enough evidence to conclude that it is “highly likely” that Russia is behind the poisoning ofSkripal and his daughter in Salisbury on March 4.
“Russia’s record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations; and our assessment that Russia views some defectors as legitimate targets for assassinations; the government has concluded that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the act against Sergei and Yulia Skripal,” she had said.
“It was an indiscriminate and reckless act against the United Kingdom, putting the lives of innocent civilians at risk. And we will not tolerate such a brazen attempt to murder innocent civilians on our soil,” she added, giving Moscow a Tuesday midnight deadline to respond on the circumstances surrounding the attack.
Downing Street said the British prime minister received the backing of Trump, who agreed in a phone call that Moscow “must provide unambiguous answers as to how this nerve agent came to be used”. Skripal was convicted of treason in 2006 and jailed for 13 years for selling secrets to MI6, which had recruited him in the 1990s.