The European Union recalled its ambassador from Moscow Thursday as the bloc rallied behind Britain in the growing row over the Salisbury nerve agent attack.
Additionally, four EU members said they were considering imposing further measures against Russia.
At an EU meeting in Brussels, leaders voiced agreement that Moscow was responsible for the March 4 attack in the English town, which has left a former Russian double agent and his daughter fighting for their lives. The European Council issued a statement saying there was “no plausible alternative explanation” for the attack.
Following the statement, the leaders of Ireland, Denmark, the Czech Republic and Lithuania said Friday they were considering further unilateral steps, including the possible expulsion of diplomats, and indicated other countries could follow suit.
"I think national measures will be applied already starting from next week... from a lot of countries," Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said.
Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said he would consult with members of his government, which would “very seriously consider to take further steps.”
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis told the CTK news agency that Prague would “probably” move to expel Russian diplomats, while Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said his government would make a security assessment on the issue next week. “What we will now consider in the coming days is whether we want to take individual action relating to Russian diplomats in Ireland,” he said.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov responded to the growing European consensus by accusing Britain of trying to make the "crisis as deep as possible.” During a visit to Hanoi Friday, Lavrov accused British officials of “feverishly trying to force allies to take confrontational steps."
The latest moves come as a British judge revealed that the attack, using the military-grade nerve toxin Novichok, may have left its victims brain damaged.
Medical tests on former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, ordered by a London court, had found they may both have had their mental capacity compromised through exposure to the nerve agent.
“The precise effect of their exposure on their long term health remains unclear, albeit medical tests indicate that their mental capacity might be compromised to an unknown and so far unascertained degree,” Judge David Williams said in his ruling.
Both Skripal and his daughter were critical but stable, and are being kept alive by medical intervention. “It is not inconceivable that their condition could rapidly deteriorate,” said the judge’s ruling.
Cover image: Theresa May, U.K. prime minister, left, and Tim Barrow, U.K. permanent representative to the European Union (EU), arrive for a summit of European Union (EU) leaders in the Europa Building in Brussels, Belgium, on Thursday, March 22, 2018. (Dario Pignatelli/Bloomberg via Getty Images)