Thu | Jun 21, 2018

UK leader: Russia highly likely behind ex-spy's poisoning

Published:Tuesday | March 13, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Military and ambulance forces work in Winterslow, England yesterday. Investigations continue into the nerve-agent poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, in Salisbury, England, on March 4.

LONDON (AP):

Britain's prime minister said yesterday that it's "highly likely" that Russia was responsible for poisoning ex-spy Sergei Skripal with a military-grade nerve agent in southwestern England last week.

Theresa May said that Russian state involvement, if proven, would be considered an "unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom" and would draw a strong response.

Shortly after May's remarks, Russia's Foreign Ministry dismissed suggestions it could be behind the poisoning as a "circus show".

May said that British scientists have determined that Skripal and his daughter were poisoned in Salisbury with Novichock a form of nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union near the end of the Cold War and that there were two possible explanations.

"Either this was a direct act by the Russian state against our country, or the Russian government lost control of this potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others," she said.

May said that Britain had given the Russian ambassador in London a deadline of Tuesday to explain which version is true.

May spoke in the House of Commons after she chaired a National Security Council meeting to hear the latest evidence in the case. She has been under mounting pressure to hit Russia with sanctions, diplomatic expulsions, and other measures in response to the poisoning, the latest in a string of mysterious mishaps to befall Russians in Britain in recent years.

May said Britain would consider tough action if Russia's explanation is inadequate, though she didn't give details.