France, US back UK against Russia

Frederick Owens
March 18, 2018

Russia's government is expelling 23 British diplomats and threatened further measures in retaliation in a growing diplomatic dispute over a nerve agent attack on a former spy in Britain.

Russian Federation will kick British diplomats from the country in a show of provocation, one day after Theresa May announced the same decision, state-run news agency RIA said.

Mr Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "We have said on different levels and occasions that Russian Federation has nothing to do with this story. Any reference or mentioning of our president is nothing else but shocking and unpardonable diplomatic misconduct".

"It looks like the Russians were behind it", Trump said during a meeting at the White House with Ireland's prime minister, Leo Varadkar.

He said he revealed its existence in the 1990s because he thought it was necessary to deprive Russian Federation of its deadly secret.

Russian Federation denies any involvement and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused London of behaving in a "boorish" way, adding that this was partly due to the problems Britain faces over its planned exit from the European Union next year.

According to him, there were "two plausible explanationsa of the attack - "either a direct act by Russia against Britain or the (Russian) government lost control of the military grade nerve agents'".

Johnson also said he had been heartened by strong expressions of support from the United States and other allies - although it remains unclear whether there will be a coordinated worldwide response to the Novichok attack.

Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia remain in critical but stable condition after being discovered slumped on a bench in Salisbury in early March.

Undaunted, Russian officials are hitting back, saying Moscow doesn't "speak the language of ultimatums" and warning they would soon take retaliatory measures against the UK.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson is due to give a speech Thursday announcing a £48 million (54 million euro) investment in a new cutting-edge chemical weapons defence centre to counter global threats, British media reported.

Lavrov also said he hoped Skripal recovered from the attack so that he could shed light on what happened. "Maybe he lacks education, I don't know".

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Prime Minister Theresa May set Twitter tongues wagging on Thursday by engaging in a fist bump with a member of the public.

The closure of the British Council's Moscow office will sever cultural ties, while that of the consulate-general in St Petersburg will end Britain's diplomatic presence in Russia's second city.

The newspaper said senior intelligence sources believe an item of clothing, cosmetics or a gift could have been laced with the Novichok toxin.

The leaders of France, Germany, the United States and UK have issued a statement on the nerve agent attack in the UK, saying there that the only plausible explanation is that Russian Federation is responsible.

A Russian lawmaker warned Britain against escalating the crisis.

"We do not want a new Cold War, and we do not want to be dragged into an arms race".

"We provided the Russian government an opportunity to respond and their denial clearly demonstrated total disdain". "They have treated the use of a military-grade nerve agent in Europe with sarcasm, contempt and defiance".

Haley: U.S. stands in absolute solidarity with Great Britain.

The Labour leader, who opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq, added: "In my years in Parliament I have seen clear thinking in an worldwide crisis overwhelmed by emotion and hasty judgments too many times".

He referenced the "flawed intelligence and dodgy dossiers" ahead of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

On Wednesday, May called the attack a "barbaric act" and announced retaliatory measures including: the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats she called "undeclared intelligence officers"; uninviting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to visit the United Kingdom; freezing certain Russian government assets in the United Kingdom; and suspending "high-level" diplomatic contacts.

"We're going to continue those actions to increase pressure on Russian Federation until they change their behaviour, and become responsible members of the worldwide community".

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