British Prime Minister Theresa May said “it is highly likely that Russia was responsible” for using a rare, military-grade nerve agent to poison a Russian ex-intelligence officer and his daughter last week.
In a strongly-worded speech in the UK House of Commons on Monday, May called the move “an indiscriminate and reckless act against the United Kingdom,” and demanded a response by the end of the day Tuesday from the Russian government.
Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were discovered incapacitated on a park bench in south England last week. The two were dosed with a “military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia,” from a family of toxins known as “Novichok,” May said.
“There are therefore only two plausible explanations for what happened in Salisbury on the 4th of March,” May said. “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.”
May said the British government would consider Russia’s reaction on Wednesday, and, “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.”
She said the British government should be prepared to consider “much more extensive measures” than those that have been used against Russia during disputes in the recent past. Those measures have included expelling Russian diplomats and economic sanctions.
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova dismissed May’s speech as a “circus show in the British Parliament,” Russian state-controlled news outlet RIA Novosti reported. The statement is “another political information campaign based on provocation,” Zakharova said.
On Monday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that the U.S. agrees that the poisoning was “reckless” and “indiscriminate,” but declined to comment on Russia, saying details are still pending.
Cover image: Military forces work on a van in Winterslow, England, Monday, March 12, 2018, as investigations continue into the nerve-agent poisoning of Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, in Salisbury, England, on Sunday March 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)