Russian spy attack: UK encouraged by support from allies, says Johnson
Sergei Skripal Russian spy attack: UK encouraged by support from allies, says Johnson
British foreign secretaryâs comments follow US secretary of stateâs condemnation of attack
The UK is encouraged by the âstrength of supportâ from allies to take action against Russia after the nerve agent attack on the former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Boris Johnson has said.
The British foreign secretary said the Kremlin must explain by midnig ht on Tuesday it if was behind the attack, or if it had allowed the deadly nerve agent Novichok to fall into the wrong hands.
âIf they can come up with a convincing explanation, then obviously we will want to see full disclosure of that to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in the Hague,â he said.
On Tuesday, the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said Russia had requested access to the substance to perform its own checks but the request had been refused.
The US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, said the attack âclearly came from Russiaâ and would have consequences. His remarks went further than those of prime minister, Theresa May, who told the House of Commons on Monday it was âhighly likelyâ Russia was behind the attack.The cold war heats up â" and not just in the Labour party Read more
Should no credible explanation be given, the UK is likely to expel a number of diplomats, more than the four who were told to leave the UK after the death of former Russian security agent Alexander Litvinenko. The UK may also potentially mount a covert cyber-offensive against the Kremlin.
Any direct action may be covered under article 51 of the UN charter, which allows for legitimate self-defence but Downing Street denied May was attempting to win support to invoke article 5 of the Nato treaty on common defence.
Asked if the UK was approaching Nato to ask for help, housing minister Dominic Raab told BBC Radio 4âs Today programme that the prime minister âchose her words very carefullyâ in her statement to the Commons to refer to an âunlawful use of force, which has a different meaning in international law to an armed attack ... I donât think weâre down the territory youâre discussing there.â
The UK government may also decide to formally support amendments to the sanctions and anti-money-laundering bill to target the persecutors of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian accountant who died after he revealed a huge state-sponsored fraud.
The measures, which the FCO has previously resisted saying it already has the full confiscatory powers it needs, are highly symbolic, having been already formally adopted by the US, but ministers are likely to support a specific âMagnitsky clauseâ in the bill at report stage.
Ministers may also examine whether to direct the broadcasting regulator Ofcom to investigate whether Russian media outlets such as RT are fit to hold a broadcasting licence and whether senior officials can be told to boycott the football World Cup in Russia this summer.
May will seek support for the UKâs response from the US, the European Union and Nato. The French president, Emmanuel Macron, also spoke to May by telephone on Tuesday night. Downing Street said Paris offered its full solidarity and said it would âcoordinate closelyâ on the UKâs agreed response.
On Tuesday, former foreign secretary William Hague said the west needed to âwake upâ to the threat Russia posed and the armoury it had at its disposal.
âCan it really be true that Russia is equipping itself to snap the undersea cables on which all our communications and finances depend? Afraid it is,â Hague wrote in his column for the Telegraph. âAre they actually positioning themselves to hack into our vi tal national infrastructure and disrupt it? Looks like it.â
Russia has denied it is behind the attack on Skripal, a former double agent who came to the UK in a spy swap in 2010, and his daughter, Yulia, who remain in hospital. Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called Mayâs statement to the Commons âa circus show in the British parliament ... itâs another political information campaign, based on a provocation.â
During an election visit, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, dismissed questions about the Skripals when confronted by the BBC, saying: âGet to the bottom of things there, then weâll discuss this.âSpy scandal has sent UK-Russia relations tumbling. What next? Read more
The UKâs national security council was expected to meet on Wednesday to discuss the Russian response, before the prime minister updates MPs. The home secretary, Amber Rudd, was due to chair a meeting of the governmentâs Cobra em ergency committee in Whitehall on Tuesday morning to discuss the latest developments.Topics
- Sergei Skripal
- Rex Tillerson
- Foreign policy
- Vladimir Putin
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