May told the British Parliament that a Russian-produced nerve agent had been used to poison Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury. Russia’s foreign ministry has likened her speech to a “circus show.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May told lawmakers on Monday that it was “highly likely” Russia had been behind the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the southern city of Salisbury.
If evidence eventually proves Moscow directly ordered the poisoning, May said the government would consider the attack an “unlawful use of force” on British territory.
What May said:
- The Russian government either ordered the attack or it had lost control of the military-grade and Russian-produced chemical nerve agent, Novichok, that was used in the attack.
- May said Moscow had until Tuesday evening to explain its Novichok program to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
- The government has summoned the Russian ambassador in London to explain whether Moscow was directly responsible for the attack.
- If there is “no credible response” by the end of Tuesday, the government would discuss retaliatory measures with the British Parliament.
- Britain cannot have a normal relationship with Russia. “We will not tolerate such a brazen attempt to murder innocent civilians on our soil,” she said, adding: “There can be no question of business as usual with Russia.”
What were the reactions?
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova dismissed May’s speech as a “provocation,” according to Russian news agencies. She added: “It is a circus show in the British parliament.”
The attack: Sixty-six year old Sergei Skripal was found with his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia, slumped on a bench in the southern English town of Salisbury on March 4. The unconscious pair was rushed to hospital where they remain in critical but stable condition. The nerve agent used to poison the pair also affected a policeman who found them. The officer is conscious but also remains in a critical condition.
Who is Sergei Skripal? Skripal was a colonel in Russia’s military intelligence service, GRU, before he was found guilty of betraying Russian agents to MI6, Britain’s foreign intelligence service. In 2010, he arrived in Britain as part of a spy swap deal between London and Moscow.