Britain, Russia trade blame over poisoning of former spy

Glen Norman
March 19, 2018

British newspapers on Sunday said the government was looking to pass emergency legislation to make it easier to seize assets in Britain acquired with dirty Russian money.

"We actually had evidence within the last 10 years that Russian Federation has not only been investigating the delivery of nerve agents for the purposes of assassination but also has been creating and stockpiling Novichok", said Johnson, interviewed Sunday on BBC's "The Andrew Marr Show".

Vladimir Chizhov told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show that Russian Federation had "nothing to do" with the poisoning in Salisbury of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

Russia's ambassador to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov told the same program that his country has destroyed its reserves of such substances and a British research laboratory could be the source of the nerve agent used in the attack.

Britain has said Russian Federation used the Soviet-era nerve agent called Novichok to attack Serge i Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the first known offensive use of such a weapon on European soil since World War Two.

"And part of this programme has involved producing and stockpiling quantities of Novichok", a statement said.

"When you have a nerve agent or whatever, you check it against certain samples that you retain in your laboratories". The pair remains critical but stable in hospital.

Chizhov pointed out that the United Kingdom chemical weapons research facility, Porton Down, is only eight miles (12 kilometers) from Salisbury, where Sergei Skripal - a former Russian intelligence officer convicted in his home country of spying for Britain- and his daughter were found on March 4. And it's actually only eight miles from Salisbury.

Asked whether he was saying Porton Down was responsible, Chizhov replied: "I don't know".

Russian Federation has been stockpiling the nerve agent used in the Salisbury spy attack for a decade, Boris Johnson has claimed.

"The Foreign Office said there was "not an ounce of truth" in his suggestion of a link to Porton Down".

Russia's Foreign Ministry ordered the expulsion of 23 British diplomats from Russia on Saturday in response to Britain's decision to expel Russian envoys in connection with the Skripal case.

A spokesperson said: "It's just another futile attempt from the Russian state to divert the story away from the facts - that Russia has acted in flagrant breach of its global obligations".

Escalating a crisis in relations, Russian Federation said it was also shutting down the activities of the British Council, which fosters cultural links between the two countries, and Britain's consulate-general in St Petersburg.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the trail of blame for the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia "leads inexorably to the Kremlin".

He added: "We have consistently taken a strong and principled stand against the Kremlin, and galvanised the worldwide response".

British Prime Minister Theresa May said Britain would consider its next steps with its allies in the coming days.

Johnson said it was "not the response of a country that really believed itself to be innocent".

"Addressing the Commons last week, Mrs May said the decision to point the finger at Moscow was also based on "Russia's record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations and our assessment that Russian Federation views some defectors as legitimate targets for assassinations".

Scotland Yard has issued a renewed appeal for information from anyone who may have seen a burgundy red BMW owned by 66-year-old Skripal, the former Russian spy who was found unconscious on March 4 in Salisbury along with his daughter, Yulia.

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