UK versus Russia escalates over poisoning

Following the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Salisbury, England, the UK Prime Minister accused the Russian government of being responsible and demanded an explanation, giving a deadline for this (now expired).

Yesterday:  ‘Don’t threaten a nuclear power’: Russia’s extraordinary warning to Theresa May

Russia tonight warned Britain not to threaten a nuclear power as it refused to meet a midnight deadline for explaining a nerve agent attack on a double agent.

The extraordinary threat came as Theresa May signed up US President Donald Trump’s support to back the UK “all the way” in the stand off with the Kremlin.

As the incendiary row grew rapidly, Kremlin spokeswoman Maria Zakharova was reported as saying in Moscow one should not threaten a nuclear power.

Before speaking to Trump tonight, May had already secured the backing of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Following the call with President Trump, Downing Street said: “The Prime Minister spoke to President Trump earlier this afternoon to update him on the ongoing investigation into the Salisbury incident.

“The Prime Minister set out the conclusion reached by the UK Government that it was highly likely that Russia was responsible for the attack against Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

In a series of incendiary tweets tonight, Russia’s London embassy said: “Moscow will not respond to London’s ultimatum until it receives samples of the chemical substance to which the UK investigators are referring.

“Britain must comply with the Chemical Weapons Convention which stipulates joint investigation into the incident, for which Moscow is ready.

“Without that, there can be no sense in any statements from London. The incident appears to be yet another crooked attempt by the UK authorities to discredit Russia.

“Any threat to take ‘punitive’ measures against Russia will meet with a response. The British side should be aware of that.”

Russia continues to deny involvement and did not respond as requested, so May has taken action.

BBC – Russian spy: UK to expel 23 Russian diplomats

The UK will expel 23 Russian diplomats after Moscow refused to explain how a Russian-made nerve agent was used on a former spy in Salisbury, the PM says.

Theresa May said the diplomats, who have a week to leave, were identified as “undeclared intelligence officers”.

She also revoked an invitation to Russia’s foreign minister, and said the Royal Family would not attend the Fifa World Cup later this year.

The Russian Embassy said the expulsion of 23 diplomats was “unacceptable, unjustified and short-sighted”.

It is the largest mass expulsion since 31 were ordered out in 1985 after double agent Oleg Gordievsky defected.

Moscow refused to meet Mrs May’s midnight deadline to co-operate in the case, prompting Mrs May to announce a series of measures intended to send a “clear message” to Russia.

They include:

  • Expelling 23 diplomats
  • Increasing checks on private flights, customs and freight
  • Freezing Russian state assets where there is evidence they may be used to threaten the life or property of UK nationals or residents
  • Ministers and the Royal Family boycotting the Fifa World Cup in Russia later this year
  • Suspending all planned high-level bilateral contacts between the UK and Russia
  • Plans to consider new laws to increase defences against “hostile state activity”

Mrs May told MPs that Russia had provided “no explanation” as to how the nerve agent came to be used in the UK, describing Moscow’s response as one of “sarcasm, contempt and defiance”.

The use of a Russian-made nerve agent on UK soil amounted to the “unlawful use of force”, she said.

The PM, who was earlier briefed by senior intelligence chiefs in Downing Street, added there was “no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian state was culpable” for the attack.

She said it was “tragic” that Russian President Vladimir Putin had “chosen to act in this way”.

Russia denies being involved in the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal.

This looks likely to escalate further.

If the Russian government was not involved I would have thought they would have offered to help identify the poison and the culprits.

 

32 Comments

  1. chrism56

     /  March 15, 2018

    Here is Mr Corbyn’s response
    https://order-order.com/2018/03/14/seumas-sticks-line-refuses-condemn-russia/
    Somewhat out of touch with the common people?

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  March 15, 2018

      Or not willing to convict without evidence ?

      • Missy

         /  March 16, 2018

        Maybe Kitty, but very suspicious that Corbyn and Seamus Milne are very quick to convict US, Israel, and UK of all sorts of crimes with no evidence – the latest only being days after the chemical weapon attack on UK soil when he accused the UK military of directing the war in Yemen with no proof to back it up.

        More likely something to do with their communist sympathies, friendships with Russian diplomats, and general support of Russia more likely than any belief in the rule of law.

        • Blazer

           /  March 16, 2018

          Posing questions,is hardly…convicting’.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  March 16, 2018

          I didn’t know all that, but wonder if we will ever know the truth of this story. I wouldn’t be surprised at any outcome ! If anyone wants suspicion to fall on someone else, the obvious thing to do is use that person’s trademark. On the other hand, using one’s trademark can make it seem that it’s too obvious to be one’s own work…this has been done in whodunnits !

  2. Gezza

     /  March 15, 2018

    If the Russian government was not involved I would have thought they would have offered to help identify the poison and the culprits.

    Sergey Lavrov complained to media days ago that the UK has refused to provide a samplebof the toxin for Russian analysis & Aljaz tv’s Jonah Hull in Moscow said this morning that Lavrov has previously called the UK’s investogation & allegations “a circus”.

    He said the Russian diplomats were probably already packing, that despite the string official reactions the Russians actually were expecting such measure & seem relatively unfazed?

  3. San Zani e Paolo

     /  March 15, 2018

    “If the Russian government was not involved I would have thought they would have offered to help identify the poison and the culprits.”
    Er they have. “Britain must comply with the Chemical Weapons Convention which stipulates joint investigation” is what the Russians said.

    Other things to bear in mind…
    Russia has been certified clean of chemical weapons.
    The material was produced in Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan has not been certified clean and at last count the Americans were helping them clean up.
    Porton Down, GB’s much lauded Biological Weapons establisment, is not too many kilometres from Salisbury, where the ex spy and his daughter are, it’s said, in a Critical But Stable condition.

    As to cui bono, there is no mileage for the Russians in taking out a long retired double agent (=traitor) with such an obvious “trail”. But who COULD possibly gain? An invitation for readers of this excellent blog to apply their working grey matter to the conundrum.

    • But who COULD possibly gain?

      A good question.

      It could have been a warning to other ex-spies. It could have been long-planned Utu. It could have been that the daughter’s visit provided a location for her father.

      Who else would benefit?

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  March 15, 2018

        I love Salisbury, it’s a beautiful city and has a wonderful cathedral.

        If this wasn’t real, it would seem like the plot of a thriller.

        The inventor of this poison is a very sick person. One can only hope for a full recovery for the victims or a quick, painless death if that is the outcome. It must be an experience beyond imagining for the victims, a real life version of the nightmare where one is totally unable to move or make a sound.

      • chrism56

         /  March 15, 2018

        In an interesting twist (but it is from the Sun so credibility is suspect) it is claimed that the daughter who was the target.
        https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/5812917/russia-attack-daughter-yulia-real-victim-niece-claims/
        Could explain a bit. Still Russian but rogue elements, rather than state sanctioned.

        • Missy

           /  March 16, 2018

          If rogue elements then Russia has lost control of a military grade chemical weapon, which is probably worse than it being state sanctioned.

          • chrism56

             /  March 16, 2018

            There is such a large overlap in Russia between the government and criminal gangs (the Russia Mafia), it is very hard to determine what is state and what is rogue. What can be said is that it is virtually certain that senior members of the Russian government bureaucracy were aware of the attack before it happened and approved of it.

          • Blazer

             /  March 16, 2018

            what did Russia have to gain ,if responsible?At least when Mossad kills Iranian scientists we know the answer to…cui bono.

  4. As for the ‘warning’ to other Russian ex agents it seems the ‘accidental’ death toll is currently at 14 that they’re aware of

  5. lurcher1948

     /  March 15, 2018

    If the west are going to invade Russia we had better start now to capture Moscow as its coming into summer as bad things happen to invaders caught in a Russian winter, mind you a nuclear winter isn’t much better,all over a Russian traitor…

    • David

       /  March 15, 2018

      Capturing Moscow didn’t help Napoleon any.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  March 15, 2018

        Did he reach Moscow, or did ‘General Wnter’ defeat him as well as Hitler after him ?

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  March 15, 2018

          General WINTER !

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  March 15, 2018

            He did, but it had been burned and he retreated. I had forgotten that, but should have remembered it from War and Peace (what a great book, equally good at the 10th reading as the 1st)

            • David

               /  March 15, 2018

              Nobody has enough spare life to read that bloody thing 10 times.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  March 15, 2018

              It’s too great to read only once. It doesn’t take THAT long ! One of the greatest books in the world, I think. His wife copied the manuscript out by hand seven times as he kept changing bits here and there. She must have been very, very fond of him;

  6. David

     /  March 15, 2018

    Pablo Miller was the MI6 agent who turned Skripal.

    Miller then, latter, worked at Orbis Business Intelligence with Christopher Steele, and lives in Salisbury. The Steele dossier is highly likely to have involved Skripal.

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2000/mar/25/russia.iantraynor1

    Quite why the Russians would want to kill Skripal now is still unclear, he was in a Russian prison for 4 years and living openly in the UK for 8. They clearly were not in a hurry….

    • Gezza

       /  March 15, 2018

      Unless it wasn’t them. Is there anybody who doesn’t like what Russia is doing anywhere & wants to stir up trouble for them?

      • San Zani e Paolo

         /  March 15, 2018

        @Gezza. Now who might that be! LOL. Maybe we should not laugh in the face of such reckless bravado.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  March 15, 2018

        Gezza, that had occurred to me, too. It’s a time-honoured dodge.

    • San Zani e Paolo

       /  March 15, 2018

      Was Steele not the chap who turned out a plausible doco about the Russians helping Trump win the election ?

      Who on earth let people like that out in the open air!

      • David

         /  March 15, 2018

        “Was Steele not the chap who turned out a plausible doco about the Russians helping Trump win the election ?”

        Yes.

        “Who on earth let people like that out in the open air!”

        He wasn’t operating in the open air, he was a retired spook.

        • San Zani e Paolo

           /  March 16, 2018

          er David, it’s said that Steele was paid to write something that was used in a “security” operation that became part of public knowledge – as a result of that something being commissioned – possibly by parties hostile to the idea of an American President bearing the surname Trump. As an operation designed to influence public opinion, it becomes “open air”. Open, I said, not Fresh.

          Whoever thought commissioning Steel to write that “report” is the one who “let him out in the open air”.

          Thanks for the opportunity to clarify! HTH.