The Latest: UK asks chemical watchdog to examine sample
MOSCOW (AP) — The Latest on the poisoning of a Russian ex-spy (all times local):
Britain says it has asked the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to examine a sample of the nerve agent used to poison Sergei and Yulia Skripal.
The prime minister’s office said Friday that Theresa May has asked the chemical weapons watchdog “to verify the government’s analysis of the nerve agent used in the Salisbury attack.”
Downing St. says officials from the OPCW are expected in Britain soon to take a sample of the poison.
Britain says the Skripals were poisoned with a Soviet-developed nerve agent known as Novichok, and have blamed the Russian state for the attack. Russia denies responsibility.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel says that Europe is looking for “the most appropriate response” to the nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy.
Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, meeting in Paris on Friday, expressed strong solidarity with Britain. The European Union will hold a summit next week.
Macron condemned “this Russian interference.” He reiterated that “everything leads us to believe that is indeed Russia that was behind this attempted assassination.”
Macron evoked the “common will ... to forbid all forms of use of chemical weapons.”
A Russian scientist who helped developed Novichok says no other country could have used that particular nerve agent to poison an ex-spy.
Vil Mirzayanov, who worked on the chemical weapon in the then-Soviet Union, said production of the Novichok type of agent is “a Russian monopoly.”
Russia denies being the source of the agent that left Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in critical condition.
But Mirzayanov said that if the substance is Novichok, as Britain claims, it’s “100 percent” clear it came from Russia.
Speaking to The Associated Press in Princeton, New Jersey, he said “Novichok is only the Russians.”
Mirzayanov revealed details of Russia’s chemical weapons in the 1990s because he said he was afraid of their impact.
He speculated that whoever poisoned the Skripals could have brought two separate components for the nerve agent — safe on their own — to Britain, then mixed them together at the last minute.
Russia’s health minister says that there are antidotes to all poisonous substances, including nerve agents of the class believed to have poisoned a former Russian double agent and his daughter in Britain.
British authorities say Sergei and Yulia Skripal were poisoned with a nerve agent in the Novichok class. Novichok substances were developed by the Soviet Union.
Russia rejects allegations that it was behind the poisonings, either by committing the action or of having allowed the nerve agent to fall into other hands.
Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova was quoted as saying Friday by the state news agency RIA Novosti: “Is it already confirmed that this is Novichok? There are antidotes to all poisonous substances,”
Russia’s envoy to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons says he doesn’t yet know what role the watchdog will play in the investigation into the nerve agent poisoning of a former Russian spy.
Ambassador Alexander Shulgin said Friday it “will certainly contribute with the independent expertise” in the British investigation into the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter.
Shulgin says there are “lots of legal options and all in line with the provisions of the chemical (weapons) convention, so our hope is to sort it out while acting within the framework of the convention.”
Moscow denies responsibility for the attack.
Shulgin says: “We warned out British colleagues, should the British side fail to produce any evidence we will draw the conclusion that London has nothing serious against us and at this point there will be a question of defamation.”
Russia’s top agency for major crimes says it has opened an investigation into the poisoning in Britain of the daughter of a former Russian double agent and the death of a Russian businessman whose body was found in London this week.
The Investigative Committee said Friday it was ready to work with British authorities in the cases of Yulia Skripal and Nikolai Glushkov. Skripal and her father Sergei, a British citizen, are in critical condition after being exposed March 4 to what British authorities say was a nerve agent.
Glushkov was found dead Monday and authorities have not stated a cause of death. But the Investigative Committee said it would probe the case as a murder.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is playing down the possibility that Germany could boycott the World Cup in Russia to show solidarity with Britain over the poisoning of a Russian ex-spy.
Merkel says the European Union’s response to the attack, which London blames on Russia, will likely be discussed at next week’s meeting of the bloc’s leaders in Brussels.
Asked at a news conference Friday about the measures Europe might take, Merkel said that “right now it’s not about a boycott of the football World Cup, right now it’s important that there’s an investigation.”
She added: “I can only hope that Russia contributes to the investigation.”
Lithuania’s foreign minister says the nerve agent attack on an ex-spy is a direct challenge to the European Union that will likely be discussed at an upcoming meeting in Brussels even though it’s not on the formal agenda.
Linas Linkevicius told The Associated Press that Russia’s recent provocations need a tough response, including action against oligarchs with questionable ties who have used London as a safe haven.
Linkevicius said that “it’s not a big secret that many oligarchs find refuge here in London” and invest in real estate. He said that “this is really strong leverage that would be very important pressure against” the Russian government.
He says Russia has become accustomed to weak reactions to provocations, including the British response to the fatal poisoning of ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.
European Union foreign ministers meet in Brussels on Monday.
The global chemical weapons watchdog says that the class of nerve agents that Britain says was used to poison a Russian ex-spy and his daughter earlier this month has never been declared to the organization by any of its member states.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons also says that it “expects some action will be taken soon” in response to its offer to help the British investigation.
The OPCW didn’t elaborate on what action could be taken, but the British representative to the organization said earlier this week that British authorities and police are working to allow the OPCW to independently verify the type of nerve agent used.
Britain says Russia is most likely behind the attack and alleges it involved a nerve agent known as Novichok.
The Kremlin has denounced British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson’s claim that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the poisoning of an ex-spy as “shocking and inexcusable.”
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies that Johnson’s statement was “shocking and inexcusable breach of diplomatic propriety.”
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said that it’s “overwhelmingly likely” that Putin ordered the use of a nerve agent against former spy Sergei Skripal in the English city of Salisbury.
Peskov emphasized that “we have repeatedly said that Russia has no relation to that.”
Britain has announced the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats over the poisoning, and Russia said it would respond in kind.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson says it’s “overwhelmingly likely” Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the use of a nerve agent against a former spy in the English city of Salisbury.
Prime Minister Theresa May has said it’s “highly likely” the Kremlin is responsible for the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.
But Johnson went a step further and blamed Putin directly on Friday. He said “our quarrel is with Putin’s Kremlin, and with his decision, and we think it overwhelmingly likely that it was his decision to direct the use of a nerve agent on the streets of the U.K., on the streets of Europe, for the first time since the Second World War.”
The Russian ambassador in London says Britain has behaved “in colonial style” in the showdown over the poisoning of an ex-spy.
Alexander Yakovenko has said in televised remarks that Britain has ignored Russian requests to share the sample of the nerve agent that poisoned former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, and refused to share any information about the investigation.
Britain has blamed Russia for the poisoning and announced the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats. Moscow has fiercely denied its involvement and warned it would respond.
Yakovenko said that Britain has violated international law and diplomatic rules by failing to share the information about the probe, adding “it hasn’t provided a single fact” to back the accusations.
Russia’s envoy at the international chemical weapons watchdog says Britain and the U.S. both have access to the nerve agent used in the poisoning of the ex-spy in Britain.
Alexander Shulgin, Russia’s envoy at the Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, has said in televised remarks that the nerve agent used to poison former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter on March 4 may have come from British or U.S. stockpiles.
Britain has accused Russia of staging the attack with the Soviet-designed Novichok nerve agent, accusations Moscow has denied. The British government has announced the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats, and Russia has warned it will respond in kind.
Shulgin said that Russia expects Britain to provide samples of the nerve agent in line with OPCW rules.
The Kremlin says it is preparing steps to retaliate against Britain’s decision to expel 23 Russian diplomats and halt high-level meetings between British and Russian officials.
After the Russian foreign minister announced on Friday that it would expel British diplomats, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters Moscow’s response “will be coming shortly.”
Tensions between Britain and Russia mounted after ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned by a military-grade nerve agent in the English city of Salisbury earlier this month. Britain blamed Russia for the attack.
Peskov says that the Kremlin is surprised by the British prime minister’s accusations, saying that they “not only violate international law but also run against common sense.”
The leader of Britain’s main opposition party says the government shouldn’t rush to blame Moscow for the nerve agent poisoning of a former spy.
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn says in a newspaper column that politicians must not “rush way ahead of the evidence being gathered by the police.”
Corbyn, a veteran socialist, has angered some Labour lawmakers by failing to declare that Russia was behind the attack that has left Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in critical condition.
In Friday’s Guardian newspaper, Corbyn says it’s possible that “Russian mafia-like groups,” rather than the Russian state, were responsible.
Several Labour legislators have signed a motion declaring support for the Conservative government’s view that there is no plausible alternative explanation, other than Russian responsibility, for the attack in the English city of Salisbury.
British Prime Minister Theresa May’s office says Australian leader Malcolm Turnbull has joined her in condemnation of the nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in southwestern England.
May’s office said in a statement that the two leaders spoke about the attempted murder of former spy Sergei Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia. The pair are hospitalized in critical condition in Salisbury, 90 miles (145 kilometers) southwest of London.
May told Turnbull that she visited Salisbury on Thursday and that the act “represented an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the U.K.”
Downing Street says Turnbull “expressed his complete solidarity with the U.K. and its response to the attack.”
Russia’s government will add more Americans to its “black list” in response to new sanctions against Russians accused of election meddling.
Tensions with Moscow are growing before Russia’s presidential election Sunday, after a nerve agent attack in Britain on a Russian ex-spy.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted Friday by news agency RIA Novosti as saying that Russia is preparing sanctions against “a new group of American actors” and possible “additional steps.”
He said Russia would target the same number of people as the U.S. but didn’t say what the sanctions would involve.
Ryabkov said he doesn’t want to definitively close the door to dialogue and accused the U.S. of threatening global stability.
The Trump administration announced sanctions Thursday on 19 Russians and five companies accused of meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says Russia will kick out British diplomats in a worsening standoff over a nerve agent attack, but still isn’t saying when or how many.
Lavrov on Friday accused Britain of violating international law and criticized Britain’s defense minister for what he called “uneducated” comments about Russia.
Britain says the Russian state is behind the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury. The United States, France and Germany also condemned Russia over the attack.
Russia denies being the source of the nerve agent used and has demanded Britain share samples collected by investigators.
Lavrov said Russia will “of course” expel British diplomats and that he hopes the Skripals recover soon so light can be shed on what happened.