Theresa May publicly blames Russia for nerve agent attack on ex-spy Sergei Skripal as relations with Moscow plummet
Britain's fragile relations with Moscow plummeted today as Theresa May publicly blamed Russia for a chemical weapons attack on UK soil.
In a damning House of Commons statement, the Prime Minister officially pointed the finger at Moscow for the first time over the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal .
She declared Mr Skripal and his daughter were targeted with a Russian-developed "military grade nerve agent" called Novichok - and it was "highly likely" Russia was responsible for the attack.
Russia's ambassador was summoned to the Foreign Office as Mrs May threatened an "extensive" diplomatic crackdown and gave the Kremlin a 24-hour deadline to explain itself.
She warned: "This attempted murder using a weapons-grade nerve agent in a British town was not just a crime agai nst the Skripals.
"It was an indiscriminate and reckless act against the United Kingdom - putting the lives of innocent civilians at risk.
"And we will not tolerant such a brazen attempt to murder innocent civilians on our soil."
Russian President Vladimir Putin shrugged off questions today as the Kremlin dismissed the allegations as a "circus show".
Mr Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were left in a critical condition on March 4 after they were targeted with a nerve agent in Salisbury, Wiltshire.
Scroll down to read Theresa May's statement in full.
A police officer who was early on the scene, DS Nick Bailey, was also left seriously ill in hospital.
The announcement triggers an explosive diplomatic row and could force the expulsion of some of Russia's 58 diplomats from London.
Russia's ambassador has been summoned today to provide an explanation to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.
It is the first time the British government has blamed Russia for an attack against a person on UK soil for more than a decade.
The last was the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, the former spy whose tea was laced with radioactive polonium in 2006.
Mrs May warned: "Following Mr Litvinenkoâs death we expelled Russian diplomats, suspended security co-operation, broke off bilateral plans on visas, froze the assets of the suspects and put them on international extradition lists."
Warning there could be "no suggestion of business as usual" with Russia, she warned: "We must now stand ready to take much more extensive measures."
Finally publicly blaming Russia, she told MPs: "It is now clear that Mr Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a military grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia.
"This is part of a group of nerve agents known as 'Novichok'.
"Based on positive identification of this chemical agent by world-leading experts at the defence, science and technology laboratory at Porton Down, our knowledge that Russia has previously produced this agent, and would still be capable of doing so; 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 it is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the act against Sergei and Yulia Skripal.
"There are therefore only two plausible explanations for what happened in Salisbury on March 4.
"Either this was a direct act by the Russian state against out country or the Russian government lost control of this potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent, and allowed it to get into the hands of others."
Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed questions about his state's alleged involvement in the Skripal case.
On a visit to a grain centre, he told the BBC: "We're dealing with agriculture here ... and you talk to me about some tragedies. Get to the bottom of things there, then we'll dis cuss this."
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told state news agency TASS: "It is a circus show in the British parliament.
"The conclusion is obvious: It's another political information campaign, based on a provocation."
But back in Britain the Prime Minister declared: "On Wednesday we will consider in detail the response from the Russian State.
"Should there be no credible response, we will conclude that this action amounts to an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom.
"And I will come back to this House and set out the full range of measures that we will take in response."
Relations between London and Moscow were already at their lowest ebb since the Cold War.
Tom Tugendhat , chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, declared: "This, if not an act of war, was certainly a warlike act by the Russian Federation."
Labour MP Stephen Doughty called on Russian-funded TV station Russia Today to have its British broadcasting licence suspended.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell previously said Labour MPs would no longer appear on the station.
Mr Doughty declared: "Why should we be watching their propaganda in this parliament?"
What is Novichok, the deadly nerve agent?
By OLIVER MILNE
This group of nerve agents was developed by the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 80s and is said to be up to ten times stronger than VX.
Novichoks - meaning 'newcomer' in Russian - were designed as "binary weapons", meaning they are comprised of two relatively harmless ingredients that only become deadly when mixed together.
This makes them easier to transport, h andle and gives them a much longer shelf life than other nerve agents.
Colonel Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, the former head of Britainâs Chemical, Biological Radiation and Nuclear regiment told the Express: "It is designed to be undetectable for any standard chemical security testing.
"Skripal would only have needed to touch it, as he opened a parcel, for it to be absorbed into his bloodstream." Read more here.
An intelligence assessment of who was behind last week's nerve agent poisoning in Salisbury, Wiltshire, is understood to have been delivered to No10 overnight ahead of a meeting this morning by the government's National Security Council.
Responding to the Prime Minister's statement, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn blasted her after the Conservative Party took more than Â£800,000 in donations from Russian oligarchs.Video Loading Click to play Tap to play The video will start in 8Cancel Play now
Tory MPs shouted and cried âshameâ as Mr Corbyn declared: âWeâre all familiar with the way huge fortunes, often acquired in the most dubious ways possible in Russia sometimes connected with criminal elements have ended up sheltering in London and trying to buy political influence in British party politics."
Fellow Labour MP Chris Leslie said Mr Corbyn's party-political comments were "just not appropriate".
The statement came just hours after Home Secretary Amber Rudd blasted the "childish" response to the attack within Russia.
The Tory minister spoke after the Russian Embassy in London tweeted about the case and a TV presenter in Russia warned people not to live in Britain, adding: "The profession of a traitor is one of the most dangerous in the world."
Ms Rudd previously called the attack a "brazen and reckless act" and said "we will respond in a robust and appropriate manner once we ascertain who was responsible."
Today she told the Evening Standard: âIâm not going to enter into a kind of great big tit-for-tat with them, which is what they are longing Iâm sure for us to do.
"Because when attribution comes we have to be absolutely cool-headed about it. Other people can carry on making their comments.
"I think that the general public are wise enough to take a dim view of that kind of childish joshing.â
People who were in the Bishop's Mill pub and Zizzi restaurant, where the Skripals went before they were taken ill, were told yesterday to wash their clothes as a precaution.
Salisbury residents blasted the delay of almost a week before the advice was given - while Mr Litvinenko's widow accused the government of failing to learn the lessons of her husband's murder.
She told the BBC: "The lesson after the murder of my husband was not learned.
"Russia never supported the investigation into the killing of my husband, nobody was punished and people who were the killers of my husband were not even suspects."
Earlier a top Tory MP warned thousands of England fans travelling to Russia for the World Cup this summer will face âreal dangerâ.
Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Tom Tugendhat told the BBC: "We do need to be very, very careful for British fans who are travelling there that they are not in any way caught up in the politics of this.
"And, I'm afraid the danger of Russia responding to British fans for actions taken by their government is all too real."
Theresa May's damning statement to MPs in full
With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to update the House on the incident in Salisbury - and the steps we are taking to investigate what happened and to respond to this reckless and despicable act.
Last week my Rt Hon Friends, the Foreign and Home Secretaries, set out the details of events as they unfolded on Sunday the 4th of March.
I am sure the whole House will want to once again pay tribute to the bravery and professionalism of our emergency services and armed forces in responding to this incident, as well as the doctors and nurses who are now treating those affected.
Our thoughts, in particular, are with Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey who remains in a serious but stable condition. In responding to this incident, he exemplified the duty and courage that define our emergency services; and in which our whole nation takes the greatest pride.
Mr Speaker, I want to pay tribute to the fortitude and calmness with which people in Salisbury have responded to these events and to thank all those who have come forward to assist the police with their investigation.
This incident has, of course, caused considerable concern across the community. Following the discovery of traces of nerve agent in Zizziâs restaurant and The Mill pub, the Chief Medical Officer issued further precautionary advice. But as Public Health England have made clear, the risk to public health is low.
Mr Speaker, I share the impatience of this House and the country at lar ge to bring those responsible to justice - and to take the full range of appropriate responses against those who would act against our country in this way.
But as a nation that believes in justice and the rule of law, it is essential that we proceed in the right way â" led not by speculation but by the evidence.
That is why we have given the police the space and time to carry out their investigation properly.
Hundreds of officers have been working around the clock â" together with experts from our armed forces - to sift and assess all the available evidence; to identify crime scenes and decontamination sites and to follow every possible lead to find those responsible.
That investigation continues and we must allow the police to continue with their work.
Mr Speaker, this morning I chaired a meeting of the National S ecurity Council in which we considered the information so far available. As is normal, the Council was updated on the assessment and intelligence picture, as well as the state of the investigation.
It is now clear that Mr Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia.
This is part of a group of nerve agents known as âNovichokâ.
Based on the positive identification of this chemical agent by world-leading experts at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down; our knowledge that Russia has previously produced this agent and would still be capable of doing so; Russiaâs 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.
Mr Speaker, there are therefore only two plausible explanations for what happened in Salisbury on the 4th of March.
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.
This afternoon my Rt Hon Friend the Foreign Secretary has summoned the Russian Ambassador to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and asked him to explain which of these two possibilities it is â" and therefore to account for how this Russian-produced nerve agent could have been deployed in Salisbury against Mr Skripal and his daughter.
My Rt Hon Friend has stated to the Ambassador that the Russian Federation must immediately provide full and complete disclosure of the Novichok programme to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
And he has requested the Russian Governmentâs response by the end of tomorrow.
Mr Speaker, this action has happened against a backdrop of a well-established pattern of Russian State aggression.
Russiaâs illegal annexation of Crimea was the first time since the Second World War that one sovereign nation has forcibly taken territory from another in Europe.
Russia has fomented conflict in the Donbas, repeatedly violated the national airspace of several European countries, and mounted a sustained campaign of cyber espionage and disruption. This has included meddling in elections, and hacking the Danish Ministry of Defence and the Bundestag, among many others.
During his recent State of the Union address, President Putin showed video graphics of missile launches, flight trajectories and explosions, including the modelling of attacks on the Uni ted States with a series of warheads impacting in Florida.
While the extra-judicial killing of terrorists and dissidents outside Russia were given legal sanction by the Russian Parliament in 2006.
And of course Russia used radiological substances in its barbaric assault on Mr Litvenenko. We saw promises to assist the investigation then, but they resulted in denial and obfuscation â" and the stifling of due process and the rule of law.
Mr Speaker, following Mr Litvinenkoâs death we expelled Russian diplomats, suspended security co-operation, broke off bilateral plans on visas, froze the assets of the suspects and put them on international extradition lists. And these measures remain in place.
Furthermore our commitment to collective defence and security through NATO remains as strong as ever in the face of Russian behaviour.
Indeed our armed forces have a leading role in NATOâs Enhanced Forward Presence with British troops leading a multinational battlegroup in Estonia.
We have led the way in securing tough sanctions against the Russian economy.
And we have at all stages worked closely with our allies and we will continue to do so.
We must now stand ready to take much more extensive measures.
Mr Speaker, on Wednesday we will consider in detail the response from the Russian State.
Should there be no credible response, we will conclude that this action amounts to an unlawful use of force by the Russian State against the United Kingdom.
And I will come back to this House and set out the full range of measures that we will take in response.
Mr Speaker, this attempted murder using a weapons- grade nerve agent in a British town was not just a crime against the Skripals.
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.
I commend this Statement to the House.Source: Google News