The Latest: EU recalls envoy for consultations on spy attack
MOSCOW (AP) — The latest on the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy in Britain (all times local):
The European Union is recalling its ambassador from Moscow for consultations over the nerve gas attack in Britain earlier this month, reinforcing a united stand against Russia.
After firmly siding with Britain in the escalating conflict, the summit of EU leaders in Brussels decided to take a united measure against Moscow early Friday.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the ambassador “is being recalled for consultations to Brussels.” He insisted it was a “measure” and not a “sanction” and that the envoy was not withdrawn as such from the Russian capital.
The 28 European Union leaders say “there is no plausible alternative explanation” for the nerve agent attack in Britain’s Salisbury other than that Russia is “highly likely” responsible.
With a strong statement toward the Kremlin, the 27 leaders threw their weight behind British Prime Minister Theresa May, who contends Russia was responsible for the March 4 attack that left a Russian former spy and his daughter in critical condition.
The 28 leaders said at their summit they “will coordinate on the consequences to be drawn in the light of the answers provided by the Russian authorities.”
Lithuania has already said it is considering the expulsion of Russian diplomats.
EU chief Donald Tusk says the 28-nation European Union agrees with Britain that it’s “highly likely” Russia is responsible for the poisoning of a former spy in England.
Tusk tweeted Thursday that the bloc agreed “there is no other plausible explanation” for the nerve-agent poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia.
The statement is a victory for British Prime Minister Theresa May, who has been urging fellow EU leaders to back Britain in blaming Russia.
Russia denies responsibility for the March 4 attack, which has left the Skripals in critical condition.
Health officials in Salisbury, England say the Russian ex-spy and his daughter poisoned by a nerve agent remain in critical condition, but a police detective who was exposed when he came to their aid has been discharged from the hospital.
National Health Service Executive Cara Charles-Barks said details about Detective Sgt. Nick Bailey’s condition will be kept private because of patient confidentiality.
She said Thursday that ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia remain in critical but stable condition.
In addition, 48 other people sought advice from the hospital after the nerve agent attack and have been assessed and given advice.
A British judge has ruled that doctors may take blood samples from ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia for testing by chemical weapons experts.
The ruling Thursday means the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons will be able to test the Skripals’ blood as part of the inquiry into British claims the two were poisoned by a nerve agent produced in Russia.
The Skripals have been unconscious and in critical condition since the March 4 attack.
They were unable to give consent for the blood test, so the matter was brought to the Family Division of the High Court in London. Judge David Williams ruled it is in their best interests to have the samples drawn.
Britain blames Russia for the attack, which Russia denies.
A leading independent newspaper has reported that Russian criminal groups two decades ago obtained a nerve agent similar to the one that allegedly was used to poison an ex-spy in England this month.
The Novaya Gazeta said the 1990s probe revealed that Leonid Rink, an expert involved in the development of the nerve agent dubbed Novichok in the West, had sold a few ampules of it to the underworld, including some unidentified Chechen mobsters. It happened as Russia was fighting a war against Islamic separatists in Chechnya.
The investigators uncovered the transfers while investigating the 1995 death of a Moscow banker, Ivan Kivelidi, whose business rival used the agent to impregnate the receiver of Kivelidi’s phone. Rink was convicted of providing the agent for the attack but given a suspended sentence.
The Kremlin says President Vladimir Putin has met with top security officials to discuss tensions with Britain over the poisoning of an ex-spy.
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies that Putin chaired a meeting of the presidential Security Council to discuss “Britain’s unfriendly and provocative policy toward Russia.”
Russia and Britain have engaged in an escalating war of words over the March 4 poisoning in England of Sergei Skripal and his daughter.
Britain blames the attack with a military-grade nerve agent on Russia, which denies the accusations as baseless. London expelled 23 Russian diplomats and Moscow responded in kind.
At the European Union’s summit in Brussels on Thursday, Britain is seeking a strong condemnation of Moscow from the bloc.
British Prime Minister Theresa May says European Union leaders must unite to counter a threat from Russia that “doesn’t respect borders.”
Arriving at an EU summit in Brussels, May said the attack on a former spy and his daughter in England “was part of a pattern of Russian aggression against Europe and its near neighbors from the western Balkans to the Near East.”
Britain is seeking a strong condemnation of Moscow from the bloc over the March 4 nerve-agent poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.
Russia denies involvement and has accused Britain of shutting it out of the investigation.
Lithuania’s president says she is weighing whether to expel Russian diplomats over the nerve-agent attack on an ex-Russian spy in Britain on March 4.
Britain has expelled 23 diplomats over the poisoning attack on a former Russian double agent and his daughter in England. It blames Moscow for the military grade nerve-agent attack. Both father and daughter are in critical condition.
Asked whether Lithuania would take similar action, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said: “We are considering such measures.”
At a European Union summit Thursday in Brussels, Grybauskaite also offered her full support to British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government. Former Soviet state Lithuania shares a border with Russia’s western Kaliningrad exclave.
Russia’s ambassador to the U.K. says Britain has a history of violating international law and can’t be trusted in investigating the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain.
Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko told reporters on Thursday that Britain has blamed Russia for the March 4 nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in southwestern England but presented no evidence.
Yakovenko says his country “can’t take British words for granted,” and accused the U.K. of having a “bad record of violating international law and misleading the international community.”
He says “history shows that British statements must be verified. We demand full transparency of the investigation and full cooperation with Russia” and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
The Skripals remain hospitalized in critical condition.
The Kremlin has denounced British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s statement comparing the World Cup in Russia to the Olympics hosted by Nazi Germany as “utterly disgusting.”
The tough response marks an escalating war of words between Moscow and London over the poisoning in southwestern England of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter with a military-grade nerve agent. Britain blamed the attack on Russia, which fiercely denied the accusations.
Johnson agreed Wednesday with a Labour lawmaker who likened the soccer World Cup hosted by Russia this summer to Adolf Hitler’s use of the 1936 Olympics as propaganda for his regime.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov described it Thursday as “the utterly disgusting statement which is unworthy of a foreign minister of any country.” He called Johnson’s words “insulting and unacceptable.”